Website Management: An Overview

Sites & Servers
Media & Software
Computer Methods
Webpage Design
Contents Pages
Templates & Defaults
Tables & Indices
Navigation Links
Graphic Elements

Styles & Formats

The ensuing remarks are part of an on-going attempt to define the editorial and maintenance practices associated with the compilation of Ricorso for transmission if necessary to other editors.

Sites & Servers
The Ricorso website is hosted by TIBUS, a Belfast-based ISP (remote site). The site is maintained a personal computer at the home address of the editor (local site).

[ top ]

Media & Software
Ricorso is maintained by using a variety proprietary software packages for word-processing, web-editing and photo-editing together with a email, FTP & telnet packages, each associated with appropriate licences and registrations. The following are in routine use:

MS Windows
PC Operating System
MS Word
Copying new sources; archiving research material; conducting Project work with non-Web outcomes.
MS IExplorer
Examining Ricorso & other sites/utilities online; internal browser
Dreamweaver 3
Writing, editing, formatting Web pages; managing Ricorso web site
MS Notepad

Writing/editing w/out formats; e-work-logs; de-formatting OPAC info.; intra-Project messages, &c.

Pegasus Email
Scholarly communication, incl. attachments; access to electronic lists.
Text Capture
Canon Scanner & Omnipage
Flatbed; Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.
Omnipage OCR
For use in relation to sources demanding higher accuracy and/or format retention.
Photo Shop Pro
[Graphics for the web pages are supplied on a commission basis.]
Paint Shop Pro 6
Sizing and installing jpeg images and on-site jpgs [logo, &c.]
Olympus CAMedia
Archiving and organisation of photo-libraries; photography & editing/printing
Server maintenance, incl. search engines, hit counters, &c.
Novell Network
Accessing online utilities including UU Online Server (home of Ricorso) and WWW OPACs.
MS Network
Accessing Ricorso Project network

Computer Methods
In a typical Ricorso editing session, Dreamweaver and Internet Explorer will both be open in Windows, while MS Word and Notepad may be used as on occasion to access or format given materials. The combination of Dreamweaver and IExplorer is crucial to the editorial maintenance of the site since this enables full navigation while actual alterations and additions are in progress. Files created in MS Word may be saved in HTML-format for ready access in Dreamweaver - a better method than ‘selecting’ text with the mouse and importing it in memory since this omits ‘smart quotes’ and similar features of the original - if any - are liable to be left behind. (Alternately, a table of such features can be saved for insertion in Dreamweaver pages as and when needed.)

Scanning & OCR software can be used effectively to import text from printed sources (either to a word-processing or web-editing context - or the latter via the former). MS Notepad is often the most convenient means of creating or editing text and should be used exclusively for log-books and simple messages on the EIRNet system. It is also of great use in copying listing from On-line Public Access Catalogues (OPACs) as being indifferent to formats and frames. Graphics programmes, while useful in constructing galleries, are not invoked by editing assignments on the Ricorso Project and the functions of the Research Officer.

Ricorso Team Members are entitled to software training in programmes relating to the execution of their assignments. Although some programmes are taught on Staff Development Courses conducted by the University of Ulster, in-house training for Dreamweaver is standard practice on the Project. New techniques acquired or developed by team-members should be shared as far as practical and possible. To this end joint work-sessions are regularly held using digital OHP for demonstration & practice. Tried and tested techniques are added to “Keyboard Commands” [infra] in this region of the Website.

[ top ]

Webpage Design
Ricorso makes use of the hypertext language (html) formats generally available for websites. Within these parameters it maintains an overall resemblance to the printed page of conventional reference works while rendering the contents frame suited to display within Internet browsers at the optimum resolution of 1024x768 psi. The resultant styles & formats are subject to frequent revision in response to new options in software and display, editorial priorities or simply aesthetic preference. Such revisions are recorded on these pages, which therefore serve as a guideline and a stylesheet for editors and researchers.

The Ricorso browser screen consists of a left-hand Navigation Frame, which remains more or less unchanged at any point in the website and a right-hand Contents Frame, which scrolls independently of the other and displays the current content page. The source files for these are index.htm, navbar.htm, and home.htm - or another named life at a different level of the folder which home.htm serves as the Table of Contents. This arrangement derives from the frames technology in Dreamweaver, which enables a frameset to ‘hold’ other pages in a given arrangement within the browser display area. Whatever file is displayed in the Contents Frame, the browser only displays the name of the frameset Index page. This means that the Contents page cannot be downloaded using File/Save though the frameset can. Nor is title of the Contents page is displayed at the head of the browser, though it appears briefly in the status line when the cursor passes over the corresponding link.

[ top ]

Contents Pages
Ricorso contents pages vary widely in format according as they display indexes, body text, bibliographical listings, tables of contents, graphics or any combination of these. In principle, however, all contents pages at the same level should be formatted along broadly similar lines as originating in templates of the same types. The A-Z Dataset presents its contents in simple page-format using recurrent category headings as the sole means of distinguishing the kinds of information involved. These categories broadly correspond to the distinctions between biography, primary & secondary bibliography, commentary and quotations, reference and annotations. correspond to logic distinctions based on bibliographical and critical practices (viz., Life, Works, Criticism, Commentary, Reference, Quotation & Notes).

By contrast in the Biblilography region, where a vertical ‘listing’ effect is naturally sought. In the absence of hanging-indents (not available in HTML), bullet-points <li> are used to separate each item without introducing excessively wide spacing as with a full paragraph break. If a bibliographical list is being placed on the Website with a view to complete organisation and formatting at a later date, the simpler line-break method can be used. The keyboard action CTRL + SHIFT introduces the appropriate code (i.e., <br>). If If the <li> code is subsequently added, the <br> code should be removed to avoid additional spacing.

Tables of Contents should always be centred on the page. The border may be visible or invisible though the former better suits a large amount of listings. Cells can be made symmetrical by applying a percentage (%) command to the Width box in the Properties menu (viz., 50% for 2 cells, 33% for three, 25% for four, &c.) Each cell should be set to ‘left’ and ‘top’ so that text appears in these positions. Contents within the cells are most commonly hyperlinked to bookmarks further down the page though cells can also be dedicated to sub-headings in relation to a group of links. In this case, Heading2 is used. Links should be divided by line breaks not paragraphs to minimise spacing. Care must be taken to ensure that two consecutive links do not merge.

[ top ]

Templates & Defaults
A new Contents Page is generally created from a Template corresponding to one file-type or another (e.g., Index, Author, Library, Gallery, &c.). These are stored in the Template folder and accessed through the File Menu of Dreamweaver. In writing contents to a webpage, the Default Font is 12 point Verdana and the Standard Alignment is ‘justified’ - hence the ubiquitous tag <p class="Normal" align="justified"> inscribed at the head of each standard paragraph in the HTML Source mode. Heading levels within the document are controlled by the CSS Styles palette in the Library folder which is automatically attached to all Ricorso documents. [Note: New pages and new components in existing pages can be created from a model rather than a template as described above.]

The current CSS Styles in use for Ricorso pages are Banner, Banner 2, Bold Italic, Bold, Default, and Copy (the last a non-showing style against white backgrounds). These are used to establish successive heading levels in a given document and should not be used for ordinary formatting. When bold or bold italic are required for specific words or phrases, the standard keyboard commands should be used (i.e., CTRL b; CTRL i); alternately, the HTML equivalent can be inserted in the Source Document (i.e., <b>text</b> and <i>text</i>). This is preferable to introducing the Select Text code <span>text</span> in conjunction with a CSS style since <span> jams future formatting until removed. Extra headings (e.g., Heading2 or heading2) can be introduced using the New command in the Edit Style Sheet [F7] but should be limited to those strictly required to distinguish levels of information.

Line breaks, paragraph marks, table divisions and so forth are all available in Dreamweaver through standard keyboard actions and/or dedicated editing menus. However, all of these these are often better managed by writing the code directly to the HTML source document [F10] - a skill easily acquired with practice. It is often convenient to use the Replace All Command either on Text, HTML, or - in special cases - Selected Folder or even Website. Care should be taken that the feature changed does not have a different function another relation (for instance, <..> or <'> - and even < > itself - which are all used to cite hypertext addresses). Replace All is certainly the solution to a recurrent editorial problem that arises when the manner in which a given common reference title is written has to be changed due to update information or a formatting decision. Whole site changes are only implemented by the Informatics Assistant under instructions from the Project Directory.

[ top ]

Vertical Spacing
The chief mechanical feature of a contents page is the fact that the user has to scroll down to reach any material that appears below the spatial limits of the monitor display screen. If the number of ‘Page Down’ actions required to reach the bottom is more than three or four, then an Index should be placed at the top to make it easier to grasp what the contents of the page actually are. This is usually appropriate in any case when the material contained on the page is susceptible to listing, as in authors’ names or book titles of which samples are to be given below. By the same token, a ‘return to top’ button in the format [ top ], should be added at intervals down the page when scrolling causes the user to lose sight of them for long periods.

The primary aim in laying out for A-Z Datasets is to make the character of the material displayed on them clearly identifiable at a glance without sacrificing any of its variety or amplitude considered as written text of various kinds. The attempt is made in Ricorso to avoid creating wide spacing between items of the kind introduced by paragraph breaks in HTML </p>. Hence, throughout the A-Z Datasets, pages devoted to biographical summary, bibliographical listings, textual paraphrase, quotation and commentary, citation and annotation are formatted as a series of unified text blocks, using using semi-colons rather than paragraph breaks to separate successive items. The reader can then select, copy and reorganised them in a word-processing while applying whatever format he/she prefers.

[ top ]

Tables & Indexes
All Ricorso contents pages are framed by a single-column Table set at 90%. This originates in the template for all page-types (e.g., Index, Author, Gallery, &c.) and is set to prevent the text from overflowing the Contents Frame in the Internet Browser. Since its borders are set at "0". The Table remains invisible from the user-end. With the sole exception of Index Pages, where a further table of 70-90% is placed inside the Contents Table, all text in Ricorso is entered from margin to margin and obeys the parameters set in the page templates (viz., border = "0"; cellpad="2"; cellspace= "2"). In the example below the border has been made visible using "border= 1".

[ back ]

[ top ]

Files below the Index level occasionally hold Tables of Contents linked to actual records using bookmarks. (Links to neighbouring file are also possible.) The width of such Tables can be set using the Insert Table and/or Properties Menu. It is preferable to use line breaks rather than paragraph breaks for successive items in Tables of Contents to avoid wide spacing. The contents of each cell should be to ‘left/top’. Similarly, cells can be made symmetrical using a percentage sign in the Width box (e.g., 50%). Where necessary, category headings can be added using Banner Text 2.

Only Index Pages display the Ricorso logo which is itself located in an Images Folder of the root directory. In order to display it, it is essential that the image link refers to the appropriate folder. Dreamweaver automatically corrects erroneous links if the Site Cache on the Local Drive has been refreshed; otherwise the task must be undertaken manually. In either case, the result should be carefully checked using Preview in Browser or - better still - by uploading the file to the Remote Site and checking it on Internet. The Ricorso Logo should not itself be linked to the Ricorso Front Page as in previous versions of the Index Template.

[ top ]

Navigation: Links
Numerous pages throughout the Website contain a simple navigation bar consisting of a table with ‘back’, ‘index’, ‘top’, or ‘next’, in each of with two or three columns, and each linked to the relevant bookmark or neighbouring page. An anchor named TOContents appears at the head of every file created from a Template while the ‘top’ link is an item in the Library folder [F6] and hence available for insertion from the Library Menu. Taken together, these two provide the most recurrent means of on-page navigation though ‘back’ can also be used.

A version of the ‘back’ link can be found in the Author/0 folder on the Remote Site of Ricorso. The file in question, named Author,Some, contains several recurrent formatted features and should be copied to the Local Site for ready access during any editing session. The ‘back’ link is written in Javascript and serves to bring the reader back to the previous bookmark or the previous page as listed in the browser ‘history’ for each session. By contrast, a ‘next’ link must be linked to the specific intended to come after it,as the Digital Library where longer texts are divided into separate files.

In setting up links of any kind, it is important to decide whether the bookmarked text or linked files are expected to appear in the whole browser window, the current contents page only, or in a New Page which will be opened in the browser without closing down the current pages. These alternatives and their effects are controlled by the Target Box in the Properties Menu of Dreamweaver (CTRL + F3).

[ top ]

Targeting Rules
Here the object is to keep the Ricorso Navigation Frame visible at all times without nesting one inside the other. The Default setting is an empty Target Box and this simply brings the linked webpage in place of the current one, filling the browser screen. By contrast, _Top brings the linked page into the Contents Page. If the linked page is an Index page (i.e., index.htm), however, the Navigation Frame associated with it will also appears in the Contents Frame - something to avoid. _Parent brings the linked page into the whole browser window and _Self brings it into the Contents Frame.

If a New Browser Page is required without closing the current one, _Blank is the appropriate setting. After invoking it, the reader can then close the new page down and return to the current page or else alternate between the two. This method is especially suited to Links with other Websites and is used on principle in Gateway since it prevents the appearance of ‘capturing’ the contents of another Website. _Blank cannot be used with Javascript ‘history’ and therefore it cannot be used with ‘back’ links.

It is worth noting a secondary effect of the Target Box commands. If Default or _Top are used, the file displayed in the Contents Frame is not identified in the URL and cannot be downloaded. If _Blank, _Parent, or _Self are used, the page is identified and can be downloaded simply by using Save As in the File Menu of the browser. For that reason _Parent and _Self are not much used in EIRDa while _Blank is pointed at Ricorso pages only when the contents are being given away for some reason (e.g., some Gallery jpegs.)

[ top ]

Graphic Elements
The Ricorso banner (or logo) appears at the head of every Index page though not at any lower level accessible through them. Like other graphic elements on the website, this is formatted as a .jpg file which is located in the ‘content’ sub-folder of ‘images’ in the root directory along with buttons used on the website Front Page. The Ricorso banner is inserted at the head of each index in the website regardless of the level.

Other folders in the ‘images’ directory are: ‘sidebar’, ‘navbar’ and ‘gallery’ - respectively supplying images for the left-hand Navigation Frame, for the navigation bar at the head of individual  “Author A-Z” files, and pictures and portraits occasionally inserted on the front pages or in individual pages elsewhere on the website.

Navigation buttons of any type in Ricorso are powered by Javascript with the result that they change colour when the mouse passes over them if any contents are attached to the button-type named. The change is actually effected by the substitution of a second image identical except in colour when the cursor passes over it (standard Javascript “rollover” behaviour).

The link from the buttons to the textual material involved is established in the ordinary using the href command in HTML (i.e., <a href="#bookmark">bookmark</a> or <a href="filename.htm">filename</a>). The effect is that the display moves to the appropriate section of the page or folder when the button is double-clicked in the browser. Some understanding of javascript is necessary for editing Ricorso pages- but not very much since the actual process is carried out automatically through the Dreamweaver menu. (Examination of the page in “Code” or “Source” mode quickly reveals the tags involved.)

[ top ]

Ricorso makes a great deal of literary and historical information available to Irish-studies scholars and interested readers everywhere in the world. To effect this it depends upon the optimum use of digital technology for literary and archival purposes. This is not only so in relation to the nature of the medium - that is, the website and its regions. It is also true in regard to the very processes by which materials for the website are gathered, stored, processed, edited and formatted. Attention to the archival structure of the project is therefore a pervasive aspect of work on Ricorso, and a considerable degree of skill-sharing in this department is encouraged on the Project.

The combination of laptops and modems along with scanners, zip-drives and smart-cards makes it possible to think in terms of a travelling Project Office. Given such resources, Ricorso might grow at a phenemenal rate; add contributions from scholars throughout the world and the increment becomes geometric. The difficulty here, however, is to arrive and and maintain a shared consensus on editing standards, formatting protocols and methods of selection. Some of these subject are address on the “Styles & Formats” pages [infra] though to a great extent the only adequate account of them is the website itself in its developing character as a set of practices and formats at the service of the Irish studies community. For that reason, familiarisation with the various regions of the website is the best guide to the project and its potential.

[ back ]

[ top ]