What is Project Ottawa?

a method of building a visual model of an web application UI/front-end layer

During the past four months, I have been presenting previews of sketches and notes from my notebook via Flickr.

Preview Sketches:

Project Ottawa [or the Ottawa model/diagrams] started in late February, prior to my trip to Ottawa for Jonathan Snook’s SMACSS Workshop. It was there that I did the first initial sketches post-workshop and a few weeks later, created the first draft.

After some review and criticism from a fellow co-worker, I decided to work on the second draft. This took more twice as much time as the first, with testing and constant revisions. However, at this point, I am writing the final pages and presenting the Second Draft as a microsite in early/mid July.

The Model

In short, the model is based on a) recent work on modularizing CSS (via Nicole Sullivan, Jonathan Snook and etc), b) analog to linear algebra, most specifically linear transforms, and c) my ideas on the UI layer, based on a concept called The Information Layer.

With these three items, I designed a visual “code” with symbols representing blocks of programming code and content. By examining mostly my own work, I developed the rules and basics to use the symbols to represent not the parts of the web application system, but also describing interactions withing the system.

The original purpose of this was archival, record keeping for myself. However, I began to realize that there was nothing out there that visually describes the work that FEDs [front-end developers] were doing. We have code and and can talk about CSS, HTML, etc. But, maybe for the first time, there was something that allowed the work to be visualized and be more tangible.


Currently, this is the second draft. Even though models are always being revised and changed, I kept the term “draft” because I wanted to present the working model in a state that was good enough for demonstrations. However, this draft appears, so far, to be close to being stable. Naturally, there is more work in the near future.

Final Preview

As I mentioned before, the final document will be presented as a microsite around early/mid July.

Before that, I created a single page preview, giving a brief overview of the model and its use in “mapping” a single page, AJAX driven site. This is based on the sketches/drawing from the last Flickr preview and the same example will be used as a case study in the final document/microsite.

Final Preview – Modeling a single page, AJAX driven site