Content is always one of the most challenging areas for any web site development project. Rarely do we have the time and energy and resources to put up everything we'd like so priorities must be set and choices must be made.
The symbols used above broadly indicate the priority content areas. Detailed discussion of the key content areas that must be developed before a new web site is launched is provided in the section entitled, "High Priority Areas for Content Development".
Organizing Site Content
The Work Team developed various organizational schemes for the web site.
It was a challenge to try to organize the amount of content that we anticipate the future site will house as well as the meet the needs of the target audiences. Considerable care was given to develop logical or "intuitive groupings" and clear unambiguous labeling.
Each organizational scheme was mentally tested against the "typical" users that we identified – would they find an answer on our site? How hard would it be? How easy?
After examining several structures, one organization scheme was selected and two sets of labels were developed that could be used in some preliminary usability tests.
Organizational Scheme Overview
The Work Team divided the content into five groupings, which represent how content will be organized on the site. Each of these categories should have an access point on the main PLEIS page through a labeled button.
Label Option 1
Label Option 2
Library catalogues, databases, and other informational materials required by library staff and public audiences
SEARCH FOR INFORMATION
Information about Saskatchewan’s library systems
ABOUT OUR LIBRARIES
ABOUT OUR LIBRARIES
News and announcements in the library community
NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Services designed for a public audience
SERVICES FOR YOU
Resources and tools designed for the library community
SERVICES FOR LIBRARIES
SERVICES FOR LIBRARIES
Site navigation aids
Searcher’s Express/Search for Information
The Searcher’s Express/Search for Information button will lead to a page that offers all the information searching options available on PLEIS: library catalogues, databases, Saskatchewan resources, Internet resources and any other specialized databases.
The Work Team decided to group this information under one button so that all informational materials and search options could be displayed to the users on one page -- thus, giving them the total view of what is available.
When a user clicks on the Searcher’s Express page, he/she will see a number of different search options, each with an accompanying drop down box. Options may be:
- Read or print a magazine article online – drop down list of online journal databases
- Locate a book, video… -- drop down list of library catalogues
- Read a newspaper – drop down list of newspapers on the Internet
- Learn about Saskatchewan – drop down list of Saskatchewan resources
- Search the web – drop down list of search engines
- Check out other special databases – drop down list of other information sources databases
- Hot topics – drop down list of hot topics such as Genealogy
This page should be designed with a public audience in mind. Recognizing that many people outside of the library community do not know the differences between library catalogues, proprietary databases, and web resources, the Work Team decided to use language that is more understandable to a public audience; for example, find a book, read a magazine article, etc.
This page will also meet the needs of the library community. It will provide a central page for searching a vast array of information.
Please note that some of these search options will be made accessible through a "Quick Picks" menu on the main page.
About Our Libraries
The About Our Libraries button will lead to a page that provides an introduction and overview of libraries in Saskatchewan. It should be geared primarily toward a public audience.
The goal of this page is to help users understand what libraries are in Saskatchewan and how they access library services. It will provide descriptions of all types of libraries -- public, academic, school, special, and government. This page should link to the Library Directory and an interactive map of Saskatchewan’s public library systems.
News and Announcements
The News and Announcements area of the web site will provide library news, facts, tips and statistics. Press releases posted to library web sites can be linked to. In addition articles about libraries can be linked to.
A subset of recent postings to this area will be selected at random and posted on the main page of the site in the News and Announcements area. This section of the main screen will be dynamically generated pulling headlines and titles from a static file. New information as well as facts and figures will be included so that on a slow "news"month there will still be interesting content presented to the site’s viewers.
The file or series of files will include a headline or title, body, post date and archive date and hotlink to more information. A perl script will create this section of the main page on the fly. The News and Announcements area of the site will contain current and past news generated from these files. On the News and Announcements page there will be a web form allowing anyone to suggest a news item or announcement for the site.
Virtual Services / Services for You
The Virtual Services button will lead to a page that contains an aggregation of interactive library services for the public. This will include a link to the library reference question and answer service, which will begin in the fall of 1999. This section is a place to install other interactive services in the future. Ideas for future services include public discussion/chat areas, readers’ advisory, and children’s services such as online audio storytelling.
In developing this section, it will be important to maintain a focus on PLEIS’ role as an aggregator rather than a direct provider of services. PLEIS should cooperate with local and regional libraries to create interactive services that can be installed on regional library system web sites and then pointed to on the Virtual Services page of PLEIS.
Services for Libraries
This area will contain services and information that will be exclusively of interest to the Saskatchewan library community.
A large amount of the material presently contained on the PLEIS web site will be included in this section. Pages for the Multitype Library Board and the library trustees will be added as well as any additional content designed for staff in the library community.
Some material such as library association activities, library jobs, workshops may be more appropriately housed on the Saskatchewan Library Association site.
The Site Navigator/Help button would provide access to a number of specialized tools to assist users to find information within the PLEIS site and elsewhere on the web.
These tools could include a table of contents, a search engine, a site map, help files or tutorials on how to use PLEIS, links to external tutorials for general web use etc.
Tools needed would be standard web/html development tools and a site search engine.
Mockup One and Mockup Two
These graphics depict two screen mock-ups created by the work team. See Appendix C for larger versions.
Screen mock-ups show other elements besides the menus/labels that were identified for the main page as well as some possible placements for the elements such as News and Announcements, Quick Picks and Library Showcase. The placement of the main logo for the site is intended to be at the top of the page and standard copyright notices would appear in the footer.
Screen mock-ups are important because they enable the Work Team to visually depict how the re-designed site would be presented to users.
Next steps in working with screen mock-ups:
- Conduct usability testing in order to determine if the organization structure and labels make sense to users. Identify changes required.
- Hire a designer to work with the selected mockup in order to create a design and colour scheme for the site. The designer should create a framework for the site so that Provincial Library staff can plug in content as they develop it.
Environment & Convergence
Next steps for proceeding with the re-design of PLEIS are intertwined with several other projects and developments pending in the library community. It is worth noting these areas of convergence, so that later discussions of technical requirements, tools, and next steps can be interpreted in a useful context.
Convergence with Gateway Project
The public library community is currently looking for a suitable Gateway product. Outcomes of the Gateway Project will have several implications for the re-design of PLEIS.
The tools obtained through a Gateway product may also be useful for building the PLEIS web site. For example, OCLC Site Search contains a database builder module; this module could be used to build the PLEIS web site databases. In addition, developing a means for remote patron authentication – which is part of the Gateway Project – would be enable greater flexibility in designing content and services on the PLEIS site.
Virtual Reference Project
As the Virtual Reference Project proceeds, it will continue to generate new content ideas for the PLEIS web site. For example, this project has already highlighted the need to develop a collection of Internet resources and undertake digitization projects. The Work Team has proposed an expandable design for the PLEIS site so that site will scale over time and accommodate more virtual reference services.
Movement Towards "Branding" in the Internet Enviroment & Libraries
What is "Branding"? Using the library community as an example, branding would allow a local public library in Saskatchewan to customize the content and screen displays of the PLEIS web site to suit its local needs and to "brand" the site with its library system’s logo.
Why would we want a branding option for PLEIS? In the development of the overall site strategy, we discussed some general approaches to the site. PLEIS is site that aggregates content from many disparate sources. The PLEIS web site is intended to strengthen local libraries and the recognition of the their role in providing information to the public.
Given this goal, the Work Team discussed the possibility of providing some sort of site "branding" or customization to recognize the local library or library system. For example, it is technically possible to change the web page on the fly based on where the patron is coming from. A user from Estevan Public Library might visit the new PLEIS site and have additional line or area on the screen that would say Estevan Public Library. This line could be a hot link to the local library’s site or not.
This branding or identification could also allow us to scope the link to Reference questions or to links area. Our ability to implement this with the present PLEIS site is fairly primitive at present. We could do based on originating "IP" and this would only customize the screen for users on a library computer. Ideally we would like to customize the screen for at home users.
To scope the screen and services for at home users, we would need some sort of login mechanism (library id or postal code) in order to identify their local library. The Reference pilot project is considering using just this type of mechanism. Many gateway products under consideration for the province have a login option for access to the full services of the gateway.
Branding or customization may be possible or feasible depending on the strengths of the gateway product. Some libraries have gone far beyond "customization" and developed end user personalization tools. Users create a "My Library" suite of tools where they pick and choose and craft their own library site based on the services and interests they have.
This service is being deployed at a number of academic libraries and came out of a movement to personalization university sites and create a "my university". Customization and personalization are very strong trends on the web and their applications to libraries should be considered.
Work Team suggests that the degree of interest in "branding" or customization be determined. If there is sufficient interest, this area could be investigated further.
High Priority Areas for Content Development
Before the re-designed PLEIS site is launched, several high priority content areas should be in place:
- Conversion of Content Currently on PLEIS
- Content required for the Main Page of PLEIS
- Interactive Map of Saskatchewan Library System
- Saskatchewan Libraries Directory
- Collection of Internet Resources
These areas were examined more closely and specific technical requirements were addressed for each area.
Conversion of Content Currently on PLEIS
The conversion of content currently on PLEIS is a straightforward task. A plan for the conversion of content should be created. This plan should include a review of materials currently on the site to evaluate if they need to be re-formatted in any way. For example, some of the interactive forms may require some editing. Also, alternate document formats such as Adobe Acrobat should be considered.
Content Required for the Main Page
The main page (see screen mock-ups) should be evaluated to determine which main page items are feasible to develop and install prior to the launch of the re-designed web site.
Content items for the main page include:
- Development of a perl script to rotate news "tidbits" or "factoids"
- Development of an archive of news "tidbits" or "factoids"
- Scanned photographs of libraries in Saskatchewan and a script to rotate them in the spotlight section.
- Written material will be required to "introduce" the content behind the primary buttons.
- Review and editing of material grouped behind primary buttons will be required.
Interactive Map of Saskatchewan Library System
The Interactive Map would connect to the MapGuide server at Saskatchewan Geomatics and display an interactive map of the Saskatchewan Library System.
Users would be able to select various layers to display views such as regional library boundaries, libraries with Internet access, branches within systems, etc. Users could also zoom in to different levels to see greater detail, down to street address for branches. The map would be connected to the Libraries Directory to display data for each library.
Tools required to develop this application would be a copy of Autodesk MapGuide Author.
Saskatchewan Libraries Directory
The Saskatchewan Libraries Directory should be developed as a searchable online database. The directory is a core tool for staff and the public for identifying libraries, locations and collections in Saskatchewan.
The content and functional requirements of the directory should be specified before the data collection and programming starts. The content of the online directory can certainly be based upon the print directory, but additional fields such as email address, reference email address, web site address, geo-spatial reference point to interface with mapping, regional or other library system name are all candidates for inclusion.
The proposed "content" of the database has to be weighed against the requirements to update and maintain it. A plan for how to maintain the database should also be developed at the same time. Will maintenance be centralized or will it be distributed for remote updating by the contacts from the various libraries? Given the size and scope of the database, it will be probably be more efficient to handle updating centrally but have an ability to automatically email out directory entries to contact persons once a year for review and revision.
Tools for the database are platform dependent and at this time the new PLEIS web site platform has not yet been determined. The web site will likely reside on the same server as the new gateway that is a core component of the web site. At minimum, a relational database application is required. This relational database could be SQL server on NT or MySQL on Linux. Access and other relational databases are also candidates but considerations should be given to present and future anticipated load. There is range of web to database development tools including ColdFusion, Perl DBI, PHP, InterDev, etc. Direct programming is Visual Basic or Perl may also be appropriate.
Collection of Internet Resources
For many years, the Provincial Library has been a leader in cataloguing information resources for Saskatchewan public libraries. Libraries are now faced with a new type of information resource – the web – that is both challenging and revolutionizing the traditional resource organization methods of libraries.
The Provincial Library has taken initial steps to managing web resources.
The Virtual Reference team has begun developing a small collection of links (or "pointers") to web sites. Currently, the collection points to 474 web sites and is organized under the following broad subject headings:
- Business and Economics
- Government and Politics
- Heritage and Society
- Internet Guides and Community Networking
- Legal Resources
- News Media
- Reference Resources
- Saskatchewan Communities
- Searching the Internet
The team has focused on Saskatchewan resources with the long-term goal of achieving a comprehensive collection of Saskatchewan resources on the web. However, the team has also identified key sites on the web where searchers will have a good starting point for finding information that is Canadian and International in scope.
Feedback on the collection has, so far, been positive.
It is noteworthy that most of the public library systems in Saskatchewan have also started their own Internet resource collections, utilizing a similar approach.
Recommendations Collection of Internet Resources
The Work Team assessed several options for addressing the technical developments required for the Internet Resources Collection. A review of all the options considered with the advantages and disadvantages of each is available in Appendix D. An overview of issues and recommendations is provided below:
Manual creation of HTML pages is no longer a feasible or sustainable choice. The breadth and depth of Internet links on the PLEIS site requires an automated tool to help enhance access and to assist with maintenance. Given that the demand for links to web sites exist and that electronic content is volatile, full cataloguing of Internet resources is not recommended at this time, but developments should be monitored.
A standard for brief record syntax should be adopted to facilitate the recording of useful links by reference and/or cataloguing staff. The Dublin Core syntax is recommended for links.
Requirements: Database, Dublin Core Syntax
A key aspect of the links collection is to try to facilitate their development by as many participants as possible. While participation is optional, the ability to access and share in a comprehensive collection will benefit many libraries. It is critical that the software that is selected allows for multiple creators and fosters the maintenance and update by multiple creators.
Requirement: Mechanism for Multiple Contributors
One way that a links project could equally support province-wide and local library access is by allowing some sort of geographic scoping for the links database. This would allow libraries to generate their own customized links collections based on either "contributing library," a page of local community links, or a set of links based on a geographic sub-heading related to a particular locale. The latter is probably more useful than the former.
Desirable Requirement: Geographic Categorization in the Database Records
Ideally the database that houses the links could be a Z39.50 target to fit with the overall agenda of the province for "one place to look". A commercial database product is OCLC Database Builder. A free software package is CNIDR Isite, an integrated Internet publishing software package including a text indexer, a search engine and Z39.50 communication tools to access databases. Isite includes the CNIDR ZDist, Isearch and Search API distributions. Alternately, a separate, simplified database that meets the Dublin Core standard could be set up in Dynix or other integrated library system. Cost and flexibility would certainly be a factor. If an extra database requires a license this could be prohibitive.
Highly Desirable Requirement: Z39.50 target
One disadvantage of the Z39.50 approach to links is that many of the free "yahoo" directory tools have built in support for automated link checking and lots of other neat features – most popular links, etc. While free directory tools usually have great link checking utilities built in, most other databases do not have this feature. However, there is a relatively easy way to work around this problem. The database could be automatically exported and a perl script could verify the links one by one in the flat file output on a weekly or monthly basis creating a report for the editor. If the "cataloguer’s ID" is recorded in the record, the notification to check the link could be emailed directly. This is a relatively simple script and could be adapted from one of many free link checkers on the web.
Web directory tools that support search and browse are plentiful and usually there are several low cost options. However, more often then not, they do not support the range of fields identified in Dublin Core. Web directory tools that produce a "yahoo" style interface are full of useful features that help automate maintenance. Their simplicity and their features make them an appealing choice but they are not a good long term vehicle.
Requirement: Automated link checking either built in to the product or easy to implement in a semi-automated fashion
General HTML Authoring Requirements for the Site
The audience for the PLEIS site is diverse and multi-faceted. Libraries have a strong commitment to universal accessibility to information and resources. The design and construction of the web site will keep in mind accessibility guidelines and try to ensure the site is comprehensible in text based browsers such as lynx for visually impaired users. This construction will also ensure broad cross-browser computability for the new web site. Given that a number of PLEIS users are on a slow dialup connections, it is imperative that the site be bandwidth friendly.
Web Site Authoring Tools Proposal and Action Plan
For the re-design of the PLEIS web site the following tools would be required in the development and maintenance of the web site.
HTML editor software and Graphic design software
At the present time the HTML editors used at Provincial Library are HTML Writer, which is very limited in what it can do and Netscape Composer, which is capable of more function but is also limited. The graphics software is Lview and the graphics functions that are included with Microsoft Office.
The Work Team proposes that Provincial Library explore four HTML editor software packages, Microsoft FrontPage 2000, Adobe Web Collection, Macromedia Dreamweaver and Allaire HomeSite.
The above products either have a graphic editor included or as a companion product.
From on research, the Work Team found that these editors have very similar functions and features, so it proposes to test all four packages. All of the products are available for trial testing.
Evaluation criteria for testing these products will be prepared by Karen. This criteria will be reviewed and a form/checklist will be developed for the trial. Timelines for testing have not yet been established. A report will be prepared on the findings, outlining the core set of tools that will be required with recommendations on which product would best suit our present and future needs. Also, included will be system requirement for each product and the implications on our present systems.
Recommended HTML Editors and Graphic Editors to be Evaluated:
Microsoft FrontPage 2000
PhotoDraw 2000 is the graphics editor that would compliment their editor.
Fireworks is the graphics editor that would compliment their editor.
Adobe Web Collection includes the following:
Visit their web site for more information