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This project began life as an attempt to create a subsite for the Cornerhouse's Interventions work - a space to publish and organise the paper trails of legal documents, Freedom of Information requests, press reports etc... that emerge during investigations carried out by Cornerhouse researchers. But as the project plans unfolded, it became clear that new thinking for that content would also suit their legacy content as that was beginning to out-grow the ActionApps system that was built for it in 2003.

The challenge was to find a way of making their finely indexed and very diverse content, navigable by users approaching the site from a range of different content perspectives. Fixed hierarchical menu structures were rejected in favour of a faceted search as the central method of site navigation. This freed us from the head-thumpingly impossible task of constructing a single set of navigational pathways that would work for people regardless of whether theirs was a regional interest content, a case-specific interest, a process-specific interest or a thematic interest in the content.

The Faceted Search  uses the same approach to documents, as online electronics shops use for fridges and DVD players. You choose your preferred keyword starting point  to get an initial long list of relevant documents. And then instead of narrowing by brand, price, colour as you might for a fridge, the Cornerhouse site guides you through narrowing by relevant country, case, process or theme. In this way each user gets a search that tailors itself to their content interests.

With the navigation working smoothly, we then proceeded to import the legacy content from the ActionApps site, and elaborate the design to fit the new site schema. The result is a site that opens up their ark of valuable content to everyone without disorientating regular visitors more familiar with the old site.

Web projects with Drupal

GreenNet’s current CMS of choice is Drupal. It is an open source system for developing websites and publishing content to them. A Drupal website has at its heart a database of the site’s content (articles, reports, profiles, events etc..). The system serves content from the database to the right pages of the site in the appropriate style, as they are called for by site users. Site authors can add, modify and manage their content in that database using simple private online forms.

The advantage of this system for GreenNet members is that their sites can be updated by anyone who has authorised access from any internet connected computer. All they need is an ordinary web browser such as Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. Once they have mastered the simple art of filling in the Drupal forms, resources and...