London Web Week – WSG Findability

My second event of London Web Week was the Web Standard Group meeting on Findability.

The WSG meetings have been on hiatus for some time, but it was nice to see they are back on a (hopefully) more regular basis.

Concepts of Findability
Cyril Doussin

How to make something findable?

  • Make sure the item is easy to discover or locate
  • Have well organised system of navigation and retrieval

Hand-guided navigation can be helped with the aid of sensible sorting/ordering (eg of menus, alphabetical lists etc), and clear sign-posting.

Relevance

  • Precision: how well a system retrieves only relevant documents
  • Recall: how well a system retrieves all relevant documents

These two can be defined in the following way:

Precision = no. relevant & retrieved / total no. retrieved
Recall = no. relevant & retrieved / total no. relevant

Content Organisation

  • Taxonomy: organisation through labelling
  • Ontology: taxonomy + inference rules
  • Folksonomy: adds a social dimension

These will become increasingly important as the volume of information grows/is shared. Decent content organisation can be a very good basis for search engines.

Building Websites with Findability in mind
Stuart Colville

The search engine share in the US is apparently: 62% – Google, 18% – Yahoo, 10% – MSN/Windows Live and the rest are minor players. So obviously, search engine algorithms mean than you need as much content in your markup and as little fluff as possible. This means using unobtrusive JavaScript, for instance:

<ul>
<li><a href=””javascript:showPopup(’blueberry_muffins.html’);””>Blueberry Muffins</a></li>
<li><a onclick=”showPopup(’toffee_muffins.html’);” href=””#””>Toffee Muffins</a></li>
<li><a onclick=””showPopup(this.href);” href=””chocolate_muffins.html””> Chocolate Muffins </a></li>
</ul>

are all bad ways of doing it…

Instead, use non-bloated (and therefore search-engine relevent markup like this:

<ul id=”links”>
<li><a href=”blueberry_muffins.html”>Blueberry Muffins</a></li>
<li><a href=”toffee_muffins.html”>Toffee Muffins</a></li>
<li><a href=”chocolate_muffins.html”> Chocolate Muffins</a></li>
</ul>

along with this function:

function showPopup(url) {
window.open(url,”Poptastic”,”width=300,height=300″);
}
window.onload = function() {
document.getElementById(‘links’).onclick = function(e) {
if (e.target && e.target.nodeName.toLowerCase() == ‘a’) {
showPopup(e.target.href);
}
return false;
}
}

[Sorry about the crappy formatting of the code block, WP doesn't let me do it any better for the moment]

Stuart also highlighted the importance (to search/findability) of URI permanence:

A Cool URI is one which does not change – Tim Berners Lee

Finding yourself with Fire Eagle
Steve Marshall

Steve gave us a run through of some of the cool stuff you can do with Fire Eagle, including how the system authenticates with other services and users. Fire Eagle is currently in closed Beta, but you can request an invite.

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