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Teaching Notes for Chapter 11

Download the end-of-chapter questions. (Zipped plain text files, UTF-8 encoded.)

The material of this chapter is unlikely to be familiar to any group of students – Web sites are a unique phenomenon. They are also a new phenomenon, and there really isn't a great deal of solid knowledge about them. The W3C barely admits the existence of sites, and the attempts to provide a theory of sites which have been attempted so far have been crude, at best. Hence, most of this chapter is discursive in nature.

We have made some attempt to provide a precise model of site structure in the early part of the chapter. You may find the use of directed graphs here to be pretentious, but we hoped to provide a starting point for more theoretically inclined students to think about site structure in more formal terms. The brief account of directed graphs could be omitted, provided the underlying idea of defining structure in terms of transitions between pages is expressed in some other way. We believe that the idea of three levels of structure is valuable, and may help to prevent some confusion.

Design students may not be accustomed to seeing structures such as hierarchies and sequences expressed diagramatically and may have difficulty dealing with abstractions generally. They are likely, however, to be good at visualizing the structure of a navbar corresponding to a particular hierarchy. Therefore, it would be possible to teach about structures by looking at navbars and other links, instead of trying to get the students to think about the abstract structures, although some attempt should be made to draw a distinction between the navigational structure that appears in the navbar and the logical structure that it expresses. In general, where design students have difficulty grasping an abstract idea, they will be assisted by looking at a concrete example that demonstrates the relevant point.

We are not concerned with studying site structures as an end in itself – we are not Web scientists. The motivation for this chapter is usability: the way structure can be expressed to assist with navigation.

The methodology we have proposed for site design is not intended to be rigorous nor all-inclusive. It is a summary of the way many Web sites are designed at present. In some circumstances, more formal methodologies are used, but these usually arise more from the needs of project management than from the design process itself. Project management is not our concern in this book, but if students are taking a course in software engineering, you might want to apply some of the ideas they will have met there to Web design carried out by larger groups.