The Progressive Dinner Party’s website itself is fittingly displayed and organized like a dinner party, with a virtual table for “guests” to sit at, a menu of food items representing artists from various regions, and a list of “master chefs” and other honored guests to the dinner party. When entering the site, jazzy dinner music is played to help set the atmosphere. The entry page is even structured like a dinner invitation, offering a brief introduction to the site. Included in this invitation is a link to Carolyn Guertin’s Assemblage and two essays of commentary by Katherine Hayles and Talan Memmott.
The invitation directs guests to The Virtual Table, which is a triangular table similar to the one in Judy Chicago’s piece. Each of the 39 place settings are represented as stars, which users can click on to view the “plate” of each artist and link externally to their works. Alternatively, the plates can be accessed through the dinner menu, which categorizes the works by food based on the region the artist came from: cocktails (Australia), hors de'oeveres (Europe), salad (Canada), Fish (East and West coasts of the U.S.), Entree (Southern U.S.), Desserts (which include tropical delights from Brazil and Florida), and brandy and coffee (New York). In turn, these regions can be selected through an interactive world map on the website. Hovering a cursor over certain regions of the map and clicking will take the user to that corresponding place on the menu. For instance, clicking on Australia will show the users all of the cocktails on the menu (represented as the artists' names), and so on.
Each artist’s plate contains a customized picture with their name on it, which links out externally to their work. Though the main picture is always of the dinner table, additional props such as flowers, chess pieces, and fruit add variation. Differentiation in background colors and patterns are also used. A black side panel with the artist’s name, the web genre, the title of the piece, and additional details such as places published can be found on the right-hand side of the screen. Also in each panel are links to the virtual table, the next plate, and endnotes. In the updated version of The Progressive Dinner Party, the black panel is additionally used as a space to add technical notes regarding the work. These let the users know whether a work is incomplete, uses Adobe Shockwave or Flash, runs slowly through the Webrecorder, or has any other special issues that they should be aware of.
By creating parts of the site with frames, an artists list can be scrolled through on the left-hand side on most pages. The artists are arranged alphabetically by last name, offering the user a quick and simple way to find place settings. Whereas the virtual table is unlabled and offers users a nearly randomized experience. Frames are also used to separate the upper navigation bar so that it remains unchanged as users traverse the site, giving them access to multiple pages at any point.
The two essays of commentary by N. Katherine Hayles and Talan Memmott are also created with frames. Placed against a gold background, the commentary page contrasts with the majority of black background colors. In addition to being accessed through the dinner party's invitation, the essays can also be accessed via the upper menu. Frames are used to divide the page into a header section and an essay section, the latter of which can be scrolled through without losing sight of the header.
An Honored Guests page thanking the contributors is included as well. These contributors include Conversation Starters, Contributors of Candles, Pioneers in Cuisine, Flowers, Special Guests and Master Chefs. Clicking on a header will take the user to a list of names corresponding to that role. A Guest Book powered by GuestWorld is also provided for visitors to sign and leave notes in, though this appears to no longer function. Wrapping up the site are an endnotes page with links to Carolyn Guertin’s and M. D. Coverley’s sites, and a link to Jennifer Ley's online journal Riding the Meridian where it was published.
The original website published within Riding the Meridian can be found at this link: http://www.heelstone.com/meridian/templates/Dinner/dinner1.htm
An updated version of the site within the ELO Repository can be viewed here: http://archive.the-next.eliterature.org/progressive-dinner-party/index.htm