VICTORIANWEB PROJECT: Design considerations

I’m now happy with the reorganisation of the data/link structure of the site, so it’s time to move on to the design considerations.

My main critisisms of the current site, which I intend to improve upon, are as follows:

  • There is nothing on the front page to draw the viewer in.  It is not instantly clear what is on offer, and takes several journeys into the content, back then again into another area, to start to understand the vast number of articles on offer.
  • The site contains a vast wealth of interesting articles that are hidden away, and one may never even know of their existence without spending a great deal of time travelling through the content.  A great many of these articles are very random in nature, and aren’t likely to be subjects that a viewer would never intentionally aim for.  This fact is ackowledged in their intro page : ” (search engines employ) a wonderful laser-like tool that penetrates the fog and darkness. If we find what we’re looking for, we leave immediately. We relate differently to hypertexts like the Victorian Web, which conceive of information existing within a complex ecology or set of connections, because they allow us to experience the richness of the texts and images we encounter.”  However, the design of the site means that much of the information within the site is hidden away from the casual viewer.  Even those who dedicate longer periods of time to reading the articles will probably find themselves in a cross-referencing loop / containment, and will probably  miss a great many articles of interest because they fall outside of their route through the site.
  • There is no clear route back to the home page or ‘core’ subject groups (there is a link called “The Vicorian Web” but it is at the bottom of the page, and is often shown alongside other subjects (which have relationship with currently viewed subject). It is not instantly clear of the ‘Victorian Web’ link is for a further subject or for the homepage
  • It is not clear which of the blue boxes are links to further content, resources or site info,
  • It takes a while to understand the functionality of the cross referencing system.  It is not initially clear if the subjects that show at the bottom of each article are links to that subject in full (as if accessed from the homepage) or if it will just bring up references to the subject of the current article in the other subject area. I’m still not entirely sure how it determines that a subject is related though, or how a viewer is expected to continue their reading journey when they click on to the next subject.   For example, if I found myself reading the article on the introduction of Electric Telegraphs at http://www.victorianweb.org/technology/telecom/telegraph.html, the article ends with related subjects “Technology” (where the article sits anyway) and “Economic Contexts”.  If I then go to “Economic Contexts” it doesn’t seem to have refined the articles displayed based on the article I’ve just read – it just seems to be a generally pointer to a related subject area.  However, if I were to start on the article http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/carlyle/kennedy1.html which is about Thomas Carlyle’s position on Race and Economics.  This article ends with suggested related areas being “Economic Contexts” (which is the route for the article anyway), “Political History” and “Thomas Carlyle” (which wasn’t a core subject group, but has it’s own tile). If I now click on “Political History” I am taken to a “Political History” page that relates to Thomas Carlyle only.
  • There are many fundamental subject groups (for example “Architecture” http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/index.html) that are not included in the core subjects on the front page,  Architecture actually comes under Visual Arts.
  • The lack of design on the pages result in the viewer not being instantly aware when they are in an actual article, and when they are in a page of further links

My initial design solutions for these problems are:

  • Separate core content subjects from site architecture, resources etc.
  • More detailed content structure in footer.
  • Front page to be populated with a number of articles picked at random from the site (from each category) that will change each time the page is opened.
  • Side bar and footer will allow quick navigation to all subjects
  • Articles will be designed to be instantly distinguishable from pages of further links
  • Purpose of references to related subjects will made more clear through positioning and adding narrative
  • Make core subjects more concise
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