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Home Page Navigation for Large Wikis

On TWiki.org we have a small number of webs with distinct purposes, e.g. the web structure is "clean". The navigation from the static home page is intuitive enough.

However, it can be challenging to find a good navigation model if you have 70K topics or more behind a firewall. In addition, a large Wiki's web structure might not reflect the current organization well due to multiple re-orgs, e.g. the cleanly defined webs do not fit anymore the current organization.

Working with a librarian I hired is quite productive. Key points I learned:

  • Be very consistent with names. Use them consistently in skins and topic content. For example, call the TWiki home page always "TWiki Home", call a web always "<Name> Web" (not just <Name>), call variables always "variables" (not sometimes "variables", sometimes "tags") etc.
  • Less is more. Use links sparingly, especially on the home page. See Google home.
  • Use a multi FacetedNavigation model for large data sets
  • Make user aware of webs, e.g. show the name of the web prominently in the banner

Here is how we solved the above described issue: TWiki Home navigation model

  • The Main web's WebHome is not the TWiki home anymore, it is simply the home of the Main web
  • New TWikiHome topic which is the TWiki Home. The TWiki Home is very simple:
    • Two HTML forms: One form to search content, and a GoBox to navigate to content
    • A few boxes with info for new users
    • Banner is very simple, no web specific links etc.
  • Multiple facets to browse to content:
    1. Browse by webs
      • Webs are logically arranged in a hierarchy based on the org structure (shallow links to web home pages)
    2. Browse by organization structure
      • Org tree with links to team home pages (deep linking to team home pages)
    3. Browse by subject (not finished yet)
      • Manually indexed content (deep linking to key topics by subject and sub category)
    • Navigation to the facets is done with NavBarAddOn tabs
  • Important banner elements for topics other then the TWiki Home:
    • Show the name and description of the web in a big font, e.g. Sandbox Web - Practice area
    • Show a "You are here" breadcrumb starting from the intranet home, e.g. Internal > TWiki Home > Sandbox Web > SomeParentTopic > CurrentTopic

Here are some screenshots to illustrate:

TWiki Home: (click to enlage)
TWiki Home (click to enlarge)
arrowbdown.gif                           arrowbdown.gif
"Browse by webs" facet:
Browse by webs facet (click to enlarge)
arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif
"Browse by organization" facet:
Browse by organization facet (click to enlarge)
arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif   arrowbdown.gif
Sample team home page with banner:
Sample team home page with banner (click to enlarge)

Is this something that sh/could be taken into the release? It might be too specific, suitable just for large Wikis?

One thing I definitely would like to see in the PatternSkin is to have the breadcrumb on top by default. Easy and intuitive navigation is very essential.

-- PeterThoeny - 16 Jul 2005

Discussions

This is slicing, or FacetedNavigation, or whatever you want to call it. What do you mean "taken into the release"? If you mean the specific layout you describe above, then definitely not. If you mean an iilustrative TWikiApplication that supports FacetedNavigation across multiple webs, that would be a very good thing to have.

See CategoryOrganizingPrinciples for a huge amount of previous discussion on this and other ideas.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 16 Jul 2005

Peter: These are immensely? valuable examples of a very professional site, the kind of thing that would earn TWiki aceptance in many corporate settings.

Because of that I'm asking that you do include this in the release.

-- AntonAylward - 16 Jul 2005

Simplified twiki home page: yes, definately.

The rest? I think so, it sounds like a general improvement even for smaller sites but I'd have to actually try it before I could say, yeah this should be the default. In sites with few webs the biggest value of the faceted navigation would likely be in the manually indexed subjects. This might not be appropriate all places (not enough volunteers to do the indexing).

-- MattWilkie - 17 Jul 2005

Good ideas here.

I just have a question about the use of tabs for FacetedNavigation. Tabs mean that you can only see the header (the link in the tab) - you cannot see what is in there, for that you have to click on the tab. FacetedNavigation always shows the items under the header, to facilitate browsing (not searchin per se). Tabs will also limit the length of the links. So while I see it is an improvement over the current situation, perhaps some things can be even improved.

Breadcrumb at top: I will add this in the next (major) revision.

-- ArthurClemens - 17 Jul 2005

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Topic revision: r5 - 2005-07-17 - ArthurClemens
 
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