[From the Chapter 1] The main objective of this chapter is to introduce the concept of content-intensive websites (or information-intensive websites), since it is precisely this type of website, and its content-heavy webpages, to which the various concepts, ideas and techniques that we present in this book are best applied.
Following on from this presentation, we discuss the relationship between content-intensive websites and the contributions made by Library and Information Science to the universe of the World Wide Web. We conclude by providing a brief presentation of the overall content of this book, describing the subjects addressed in each of the remaining six chapters.
Characterization of Content-Intensive Sites
Content-intensive sites (CISs) are characterized by the fact that they belong to organizations that naturally produce large volumes of information. That is, they produce this content not as a result of having to come up with strategies to fill their website, as might be the case of other types of organization (we refer to the majority of firms operating in the business world, for example), but simply because they cannot not create it. In other words, they would cease to fulfil a fundamental part of their mission if they stopped creating content.
Generally speaking, there are three main types of organization that present this characteristic: the media, universities and museums. We do not automatically rule out the possibility of there being other classes, but given the widespread presence of these three in any moderately developed society, their great social significance and their impact on knowledge, they are by far the most important.
The three types of institution share a series of characteristics of enormous significance. First, the kind of information they produce and manage is of the broadest social interest and reach. Second, in their fields, they produce and manage information that enhances cultural quality and promotes the advancement of a nation’s knowledge (and their coming together in an international system, of course, improves the cultural quality, and promotes the knowledge, of mankind as a whole). Finally, in an era of unabated changes that can be traced to the beginning of the industrial revolution, they are three examples of centuries-old institutions which, despite suffering periodic crises, do not appear to be near the end of their existence; on the contrary, they would appear to be as strong as ever.
Briefly, the media provide the channels by which society, since at least the eighteenth century, has kept itself informed about what is going on around it and, since at least the beginning of the twentieth century, it has been a formidable instrument in the defence of democracy in its role of keeping a watchful eye on those in power and, indeed, is often referred to as the “fourth power”. Today, there is a widespread consensus that active, well-informed citizens thanks to a high-quality, free press are, in turn, the foundation of strong democracy.
The universities, for their part, have been responsible, since the Middle Ages, for a dual function whose importance cannot be exaggerated: the dissemination of knowledge and the creation of new knowledge. As if this were not enough, they house the great university libraries, or as is preferred in more modern circles, resource centres for learning and research.
Finally, the museums, in existence since the beginning of the eighteenth century, fulfil the function of the preservation of our tangible and intangible cultural heritage and of making it available not only to researchers and scholars but to society as a whole. Their permanent collections form a massive archive whose digitization and documentation represent an invaluable and, fortunately, vast source of information and knowledge.
While to an outside observer of the world of both search engine optimization (SEO) and the Library and Information Sciences, these three types of organization might appear to have little in common, we would claim (summing up what we have said so far) that they are institutions that share a number of important characteristics. First, they are all three deeply rooted in their respective societies. Second, they generate a wide variety of information as part of their natural activities. Third, their information is of broad social interest. They also generate multimedia information, that is, they produce content covering the entire spectrum of information morphologies (text, image, sound and video); and, more recently, they have begun to generate interactive content, linked even to augmented and virtual realities. Finally, all three are heavily conditioned to ensure that their contents are of quality and meet essential requirements of validity.
An opportunity for Library and Information Science
From the perspective of Library and Information Science (LIS), CISs and mixed sites are of great interest because they both require intense inputs from this field of study.
The reason for this is that LIS does not concern itself with just any kind of information. Indeed, information is the subject of study and the focus of many disciplines and professions. Biology, for example, is concerned with information (among other things) when it studies the laws of genetics, and so is Mass Communication, to choose a discipline at the other end of the academic spectrum, when it examines the messages circulating in the media.
Information is an ever-present facet in the life experience of human beings as individuals, and also of human societies as a whole. People constantly exchange information with each other as part of their vital interaction with their fellow man. Society deals with huge amounts of information on a permanent basis and in real time, including, for example, city traffic and pollution data.
What exactly is the focus of interest of LIS in this overwhelming panorama presided over by the constant exchange of information? We believe that by examining our specific object of study we are able to recognize a number of characteristics that are at the same time unique and exclusive to the information which concerns us in the field of LIS.
First, LIS does not concern itself with just any kind of information, as we have been at pains to illustrate with the above examples; rather, it concerns itself with information that is recorded in material supports, what we can refer to as documents.
For many years now LIS has not only focused its attention on printed documents and textual information. As mentioned, the concept of the document includes any kind of recorded material including digital supports and all types of information morphology, including text, image, video and sound. This means that LIS is not only concerned with monographs and articles in print magazines housed in libraries, but also with computer records hosted in database systems.
Second, LIS does not concern itself with administrative information, such as that produced daily by millions of businesses and individuals around the globe, which means the balance sheets of a country’s companies are not to be found in libraries, rather we have to visit the company archives or the nation’s historical archives (if the information is old) to find them.
How the book is structured
In this book, it is our understanding that Information Architecture (IA), via its contribution to the design of navigation systems, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) occupy a privileged place in their applications to content-intensive sites (see the reasons outlined above). Likewise, we believe both IA and SEO occupy privileged places in the applications of LIS to the universe of the web.
In keeping with these beliefs, we can build an interesting triangle, with one side being formed by the World Wide Web, the second by LIS and the third by the partnership forged between AI + SEO. It is precisely this triangle that has served as our motivation to work and research in these areas at our respective universities, and it is these ideas that we now wish to make available to the reader in this book.
In the next chapter, Chapter 2, we analyse the bases on which the navigation system is founded and that allow a user to explore and locate information in web environments and on mobile devices. To do so, we organize the chapter into four sections. In the first, we examine the subject of navigation in fairly broad terms. Specifically, the section begins by highlighting the basic importance of navigation and how this is manifest in web environments. We follow this up by offering a complete definition of the navigation system. Finally, we round off the section by providing a series of recommendations (or heuristics) that can be followed to improve the design and implementation of a website navigation system.
In the second section of this chapter, we show how the overall navigation system that can be found on a webpage is usually built up from different elements or subsystems. We examine this typology and describe the two basic navigation systems: embedded systems – constant, local and contextual systems; and supplementary systems – maps, indexes and guides. In the third section, we present the advanced or non-basic systems – personalization systems, visual navigation systems, and social navigation systems. And, in the fourth, we examine the components that enable us to add extra layers of semantic navigation to a site and which enhance both the user’s navigating experience and the site’s SEO.
In Chapter 3, we focus our attention on describing and analysing methodological questions associated with the implementation of navigation.
The first section is dedicated to examining the different phases or stages that have to be completed to ensure our navigation resources are designed efficiently. Specifically, we focus on the stages of analysis, design and implementation. The analysis stage examines in detail the scenario in which the site will be developed and includes contextual, content and user analyses. In the design phase, we present the navigation resources and develop a content inventory and content models, a representation of the vocabulary, the prototype and an evaluation of the proposed navigation system. Finally, in the implementation phase, an initial version of the navigation system that was drawn up in the design phase is developed, this is then communicated, before the eventual website is developed and the style guides created.
The next two sections are dedicated to addressing two of the most frequently used methodological strategies of user analysis, developed to ensure the efficient design of navigation resources: the Persona-Scenario method and the Card Sorting technique. The Persona-Scenario method is a non-participatory analysis technique that seeks both to identify the site’s target users and to place their actions within a given context, thus allowing decisions to be taken about the design and structure of our project. The Card Sorting technique is a participatory methodological strategy that allows us to design different (constant and local) navigation systems drawing on the cognitive organizations presented by the site’s target users.
Chapter 4 has two aims: first, to analyse the functions of prototyping and prototyping typologies and, second, to describe and review a series of online and desktop tools designed to facilitate the creation of prototypes for the design and creation of webpages and digital content for mobile devices. To meet these goals, the chapter is organised as follows. First, we begin by outlining the importance and functionality of prototyping for the architectural design of a website. Then, we analyse the two main types of prototypes or diagrams typically used to represent the architecture proposed for a webpage: blueprints and wireframes. Finally, we review some of the main (online and desktop) solutions for developing and implementing website diagramming or prototyping.
Introducing the essentials of SEO or website positioning is the main objective of Chapter 5. Here, we examine the basic guidelines and best practices that ensure a website is visible on the World Wide Web. First, we present a brief description of SEO from the point of view of its main objectives. Then we focus on one of its principal objects of study, search engines, to understand how they analyse and interpret information, and how they rank it on their results pages. Finally, in this chapter, we look at website positioning factors by grouping them in two sets, the OnSite and OffSite factors.
Having reviewed the essentials of SEO, in Chapter 6 we present the different phases of a positioning campaign, then move on to focus our attention on aspects of OnSite SEO and, in particular, on content-based SEO, as this is one of the strengths of content-intensive sites (CISs). Specifically, we introduce the main phases of an SEO campaign. But once these phases of the campaign have been implemented, the only way to sustain the site’s position is by promoting a continuous policy of content creation and publishing.
To meet this objective, we also present a framework proposal to optimize site content linked to the production of news and current affairs, given that this is one of the most characteristic cases of CISs. However, this proposal can be extended to all the other CISs that we refer to throughout this book (that is not only news media sites but also university and museum websites).
In the preceding chapters we therefore examine, first, the essentials of SEO and, second, the phases of an optimization campaign as well as a framework for optimizing the production of a CIS, taking as our example a media communication site, although the recommendations we make can be extrapolated to other CISs.
Finally, in Chapter 7, we first review the current state of the mobile web, considering a range of different devices based on their screen size, given that this characteristic is the main determinant of the user experience. We also consider mobile operating systems and applications, in particular, news aggregators. Finally, we link SEO and the mobile web via both searches and responsive web design.
Mario Pérez-Montoro; Lluís Codina. Navigation Design and SEO for Content-Intensive Websites: A Guide for an Efficient Digital Communication. Oxford: Chandos Publishing (Elsevier), 2017 (ISBN 9780081006764)