Transport Geography on the Web:Practical Implications for Developing, Maintaining and Upgrading a Large Educational Web Site Jean-Paul Rodrigue Dept. of Economics & Geography Hofstra University Hempstead, NY Jean-paul.Rodrigue@hofstra.edu
The Project • Transport Geography on the Web • Started in 1997 from a grant by Industry Canada. • TG course supported by a web site. • Canadian initiative for the development of the information highway (provide relevant content). • Team of 4 transport geographers. • 6th year of development. • One of the longest continuously maintained academic content site available. • http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans
The Project • Current status • About 2,800 files: • 1750 HMTL, PPT, XLS and ZIP files. • 1050 GIF and JPG images. • 40 MB. • PowerPoint slides: • About 780 slides. • Search engines: • 2nd in Google for “transport geography”. • All pages have been indexed; “occupies the real estate”. • Commonly turn out on the top 10 links on related searches: • (1st) “transport graph theory”; (2nd) “geography transport network”; (8th) “air transport geography”. • Main reference in about 10 transport geography classes.
Structure • Table of contents, index, media and credits. • Topical division • 9 chapters, each related to a major field of the discipline. • Each chapter supported by an array of PowerPoint slides, Excel worksheets and GIS-T datasets. • Thematic division • Each topic divided in concepts, methods and applications. Home TOC Index Chapter 1 Glossary Chapter 2 Media … Chapter 9 Credits Concepts Methods Applications
Design Issues • Wed design • Significant changes reflecting the evolution of web design and site management. • Very important for large sites. • Includes the appearance, navigation and organization: • Choice and consistency of fonts, positioning and colors. • Large web sites require a complex organization and storage structure. • Navigation must be easy and intuitive. • Collaborative work: • An agreed upon design and interface. • Either provide a template or a strategy to include and upgrade the material. • A site is dynamic (modifications and upgrades are constant).
Design Issues • First version design • Frame based: • Difficult to be indexed by search engines. • A query on Google would end up in a page without links. • Graphic buttons and titles: • Loading problems (especially “onmouseover”) • Table layout: • <TR> and <TD> mess. • Pesky <FONT> tags. • Very difficult to maintain: • Some inconsistency between pages. • A simple change in the design involved modifying manually hundreds of pages.
Design Issues • Major upgrade in Spring 2002 • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets): • Consistency in format (applicable to the whole site). • Powerful text formatting. • HTML + CSS = 30-40% reduction in file size. • Separate design for onscreen and printing. • Easy to change design. • <DIV> based layout (more flexible positioning). • Jscript slide menu: • Minimal impact on valuable screen “real estate”. • Popup windows: • Improve the document’s continuity. • Automatically close. • Navigation bar (excellent orientation tool).
Future Directions • Extend the content • Struggle to keep the contents up-to-date. • Develop exercises and labs (GIS-T datasets). • Search capabilities within the site (with relevance ranking). • Improve the media • Reliance on SVG (scalable vector graphic). • Multimedia contents (clips, animations and narrations). • Improve search engine indexation • <meta> tagging efficiently the whole contents. • Several pages should get a better ranking. • Lifetime initiative