Web Publishing for Genealogy

Designing Your Web Site

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Links fulfil two quite different functions:

  • they are the glue that hold your Web site together, making it possible to get from one page to another
  • they can provide connections to other Web sites of related interest.

If you have only a small number of pages, you can simply have a link from your Home Page to each other page on your site. But with more pages, it's better to organize them hierarchically. Break your information down into separate topics or areas, and give each topic its own main page. You can then provide a link to each topic from the Home Page, while the topic pages provide the links to the individual pages with information. If you do have a lot of links on a particular page, try and group them under headings, so the reader can see what sort of information they link to.


Flat & Hierarchical Web Site Organization. Once you have more than a few pages, a Web site with the structure on the right is easier for readers to find their way around; it will also be easier to reorganize and extend without touching the top level page.

For example, if you're researching several lines of ancestry, you might have a main page for each surname. If you're concentrating on a single family, you might have separate areas for narrative, documents, and family tree, and you can further subdivide within those topics. You might, of course, have interests outside genealogy and so have other material on your Web site. In that case your home page would provide an entry point to each different area, and your main genealogy page would be at the second level.

Obviously each page should have links to any related sub-pages. You can also make life easier for your readers if each page provides a link to

  • the top level page (Home Page)
  • the main page of the topic area
  • other relevant pages on your site.

While using links to provide an overall structure is important, don't forget that that you can link from one page to any other page. So although you might have a main "document archive" page which provides a link, say, to an individual will transcript, you can also create links to that will transcript from the individual's entry on the family tree pages, or from a narrative about the individual. However, it's important not to overdo this - readers can easily get disorientated if there are too many different ways to move between pages on your site.

Links to other Web pages outside your own site are not necessary, and will always be less important than the information you yourself are supplying. But it's a simple matter to set aside an area on your Home Page, or even a separate page, to provide links to sites with related information:

  • Web sites of other individuals researching the same surnames
  • local and family history societies for your ancestors' places of origin
  • resources for particular genealogical subjects relevant to your ancestors (e.g. naval genealogy, Scottish clans).

If you want other genealogists to include links to your Web site on their pages, you will need an area for reciprocal links.

It may be tempting to add lots of external links, and a genealogical page allows plenty of scope - every time you mention a county you could provide a link to the record office or the relevant county page on GENUKI, for example. But bear in mind that if someone clicks an external link they leave your site, and may not return. External links are best used sparingly, or cordoned off in their own area.

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4. Designing Your Web Site