Web Publishing for Genealogy

Designing Your Web Site

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The Page

Each page should be a unit of information, complete unto itself. Think of it as an encyclopaedia entry: it should make sense in its own right, even if it has lots of cross references to other information.

Splitting up your information into sensible and manageable units is the first basic design task in Web authoring: too many small pages and your readers will be endlessly flitting from page to page; a small number of very large pages, and readers will either not bother to scroll down to the bottom, or the pages will take so long to download that they'll give up. Not more than five or six screenfuls to one page is a good rule of thumb. And if there's a good reason why you must have a long page make sure there are good headings and aids to navigation.

If you have got a large document, consider splitting it into parts rather than leaving it as one long page, if this makes it more manageable. If, for example, you have got a long surname index, few readers will want the whole page, especially if it's going to take five minutes to download - they'll just want to go quickly to the parts of the alphabet with surnames of interest to them.

There are also certain pieces of information the page should always contain:

  • a title
  • a main heading at the top indicating the content
  • the name of the person responsible for the page, preferably accompanied by an e-mail address (traditionally this goes at the bottom of the page).

While this might not seem necessary for any butyour Home Page, readers will not always come to your site via the Home Page. Also, the title is a good idea for every page, because if a reader bookmarks a page, the title will help identify your page among all the other bookmarks. Likewise on any printout, headings and a title will indicate where the page comes from and what it shows.

If you are providing what is meant to be up-to-date information, it's also useful to put the date the page was last edited. This is helpful for readers because it allows them to judge how current the information is; it also helps you to spot pages that may need checking.

If you are adding material to your site on a regular basis, it can also be useful to have a way of indicating when any part of the site has been updated. This is usually done via a "What's New" page, which again helps you by reminding you what you did to the site when.

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4. Designing Your Web Site