Multi-faceted document navigation with WordPress

I’m currently working with David Kay (and others) from Sero, and Paul Miller from Cloud of Data on a JISC commissioned Guide to Open Bibliographic Data for use by managers, practitioners and developers in the library community. The Guide, which is intended to synthesise information from existing sources, rather than do any new research, will support and will be enhanced in the implementation phase of the Resource Discovery Task Force vision.

This post isn’t really about the guide as such – but more about how such a document might be structured and navigated. It is intended that the basic structure for the guide is a series of  Use Cases – essentially scenarios in which a library/institution might publish some bibliographic data in an ‘open’ way. Each use case is made up of a number of (common) sections and subsections.

For example, each use case will have a ‘Benefits’ section, divided into several parts (subsections) describing the benefits to the Institution, the Library Service, Researchers, Students, etc. Each subsection will (probably) be relatively short, perhaps made up of a paragraph or so of text.

We want the final Guide to be a useful and powerful online resource – and so having got a notional structure, we brainstormed what it might look like online. One of the first things that came up is that not all aspects of the Guide would be equally relevant to all possible audiences. For example, a Vice Chancellor may be interested in possible benefits to the institution and potential cost savings, but probably isn’t going to want to know the technical detail of how the data is made available openly.

We also felt that while a common approach might be to read through a Use Case from start to finish, there might be examples where you want to simply see the Licensing issues raised by each use case in a single place.

Finally we were also keen to support commenting on individual subsections – getting input and experience from the user community on the different aspects of each use case. [as an aside, early on we considered whether using WordPress with the plugin (as used by JISCPress) might be a possible approach, but eventually felt that although this gave a detailed level of commenting – down to paragraph level – it wasn’t quite what we needed in this case].

After a bit more discussion, I took on the task of looking at what might be achieved with WordPress to facilitate all these different possible entry points, views, and routes through a document with the kind of structure that we had agreed. I’ve been playing around with WordPress (v3.0) and I’ve now got something I think has the beginnings of a reasonable approach to the problem.

You can pop over and have a look at a demonstration site, bearing in mind that all content is extremely draft and may not represent the final content of the Guide in any way. Also note that I’ve used the WordPress v3.0 default template as a starting point, and done almost nothing to the ‘style’ of the site, so ignore anything about the style – it is really the way the document navigates that I’m working on at the moment. That said, please feel free to leave any feedback you have on this post, or on the site, whether to do with the navigation, the style, the structure, the content etc.

Interestingly we came up with similar needs when putting together the ‘ReMIT’ (Reference Management Integration Toolkit) documentation for the TELSTAR project that I’ve been working on – especially the idea of a filtered view based on audience – so I hope the work here might have some wider applicability.

4 thoughts on “Multi-faceted document navigation with WordPress

  1. Hi Owen,

    I’ve been struggling with a similar dilema for my JISC Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation.

    I’m writing a blog about the creation of the guide – though must admit I’ve written much more about the content so far.

    I also want to use WordPress and although I don’t need people to be able to comment on all sections I want there to be lots of ways to navigate the content – tag clouds, index, TOC, thematically and through questions.

    I shall have a good look at how you’ve set up your blog and get back to you – the process of critiquing your site might help clarify what i’m after.


  2. Hi Marieke,

    One of the biggest issues is keeping context when you slice up the documentation into smaller chunks. While being able to reuse it is great, if it relies on the surrounding document for context it can just be confusing.

    I don’t think we have this sorted on this demonstrator yet – although I think the hooks are in place to do it. I think getting the interface right is key – there may be certain views of the document or routes through the document that make sense, and you want to encourage the reader to take.

    If you do a critique for your own purposes it would be great to see it!

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