On a Web site or intranet each of the alphabetically arranged entries or subentries is hyperlinked to the page or to an anchor within a page to where the topic is discussed. Since an alphabetical index can be quite long, it is often divided into pages for each letter of the alphabet. Typically, each letter is linked at the top of the page allow a jump to the start of that letter’s section of the index.
The phrase 'information storage and retrieval,' coined in the fifties - when computers were first harnessed to the twin tasks of recording verbal communication and finding it again on demand - is somewhat misleading and it is also missing a vital element. The misleading part is that many people seem to believe that these tasks can only be performed by machines. Yet information has been stored on stone tablets, papyrus rolls and in books for thousands of years and it has also been found when needed. The missing part is that, in order for stored information to be retrievable - whether manually or by machine - an intermediate operation is of crucial importance: the stored information must be indexed.
The past hundred years have seen the development of numerous systems for the structured representation of knowledge and information, including hierarchical classification systems with notation as well as alphabetical indexing systems with sophisticated features for the representation of term relationships. The reasons for the lack of widespread adoption of these systems, particularly in the United States, are discussed. The suggested structure for indexing the Internet or other large electronic collections of documents is based on that of book indexes: specific headings with coined modifications.
DITA is useful for helping writers create small units of organized information that can be used in multiple contexts. Of course, the reader's problem then becomes locating the information they want in a quick, reasonable timeframe. Although DITA provides enough metadata to simplify searching, or even to present information the reader needs based on a profile, there are some media that cannot make use of those facilities. To bridge that gap, you can use the tried and true index.
One of our favorite cliches is that you can't use the printed book as a model for online information. Web-based information, which is following the same evolutionary progress as online help systems, has inherited this 'books are bad' philosophy. However, any statement we've begun to take for granted bears some re-examination, because unquestioningly accepting dogma undermines our efforts to improve communication.
Effective documentation is built around the work environment of the user. The index, too, should relate to the work the user performs. As in the body of your documentation, topics in your index should consist primarily of objects, tasks and concepts from the world of the user
Subheadings enable your readers to find detailed information quickly. They also give the reader an idea of how deeply a topic is covered. Subheadings provide more detail about the topic stated in the main entry. Effective subheadings represent distinct aspects of a topic.
In part 3 of the continuing series on controlled vocabularies and faceted classification, the authors explain synonym rings and authority files and how their use can bridge the gap between natural language and complex controlled vocabularies (taxonomies and thesauri).
Taxonomies have recently emerged from the quiet backwaters of biology, book indexing, and library science into the corporate limelight. They are supposed to be the silver bullets that will help users find the needle in the intranet haystack, reduce 'friction' in electronic commerce, facilitate scientific research, and promote global collaboration. But before this can happen, practitioners need to dispel the myths and confusion, created in part by the multi-disciplinary nature of the task and the hype surrounding content management technologies.