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Re: Re: Site Map

From: Jesper Tverskov <jesper.tverskov@mail.tele.dk>
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2004 20:23:31 +0100
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000001c3ef42$356ea6f0$440bc650@tversdata>
Table of contents versus Site map
What I find useful in a table of contents in a book is that there I have a listing of everything: Credits, Foreword, Preface, Acknowledgements, parts, chapters, appendixes, indexes, even CD-ROM Installation Instructions (!), etc. What is not in the table of contents is not in the book. This is a very generic and useful concept also for many web sites.
In many books we also have something called "Summary of Contents", "Contents at a Glance", you name it, some filtered view of the table of contents. This is also a very generic and useful concept.
On web sites we often have several such "Summary of Contents". The home page is often such a summary, having "channels" and linking to a lot of more about this and that, etc., and the main navigation on most pages is often also such a summary or even a full table of contents. We also have different types of contextual menus, submenus, bread-crumbs, quick menus, sitemaps, etc., not to mention search engines. The discussion is not that simple.
What we need for most major web sites is an all inclusive table of contents organized not on the basis of a simple hierarchy and page numbers in order like in a book, and not on the basis of how pages happen to link to each other in a purely technical manner, but on how the contents are important and useful for real users. This is the only valid point of departure for a generic table of contents for web sites. It should be tested and refined over and over again in a usability test lab with real users and based on facts and real value.
Such a table of contents, based on what is actually useful, could have many different views based on sorting and filtering when additional views are found useful. Such a table of contents could also have some additional or alternative views for special purposes based on other principles like automatic generated tree structures mostly associated with site maps, or even like boxes and rooms in a doll's house. But they should only be maintained if found useful in the long run.
In many situations the detailed view in a table of contents should not be the default view, but we would prefer some "Summary of Contents" to be the default view and on some sites even the more fanciful visual boxes and "rooms".
Site maps only play a minor part in the above analysis if any. The concept could have become the right generic term (map) for table of contents on web sites very different from books. But it has turned out to be too confusing and has been too misused to be worth building on. The concept of a table of contents is much more generic based on our experiences from a lot of areas. We are used to many more lists and tables than of maps most people only use occasionally.
It is my guess that sitemap will go out of use just like surfers and other lovely but strange terms from the first decade of World Wide Web.
Jesper Tverskov
Received on Monday, 9 February 2004 14:16:08 UTC

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