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.
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.
Turn to the index in the back of any O'Reilly book published in the last five years and chances are you're looking at the handiwork of O'Reilly's resident indexing guru, Seth Maislin. Though indexes are the most frequently fingered section of any computer book, they remain the one element most taken for granted. Those ostensibly logical, orderly columns of subject-page references belie the complexity of indexing. The craft of indexing involves much more than the mere alphabetization of a book's key words. It requires something that is at once science and art form, the product of someone painstakingly fleshing out a book's information design while copiously accounting for nuances of language and word associations. You might say an index is like a fingerprint: intricate, revealing, utterly unique.
It wasn't too long ago that the concept of creating an index for hypertext documents was completely foreign. However, many webmasters, corporations, and new media publishers are seeing the clear benefits of using human indexers to design and write indexes to their Web sites and intranets, hoping for superior results in information access and retrieval. Technical writers may also be called on to provide indexing for Web sites.
HTML Indexer is a commercial stand-alone indexing tool that is designed solely for the indexing of web sites. This article shows how to extend the functionality of HTML Indexer by including special codes in the entries, then post-processing the generated HTML to obtain final HTML.
Browne and Jermey say that 'increasingly sophisticated retrieval methods' will be needed as the Web gets more complex. They believe that good, back-of-the-book-style indexes 'are effective tools for improving the speed and accuracy of user searches.' With their book as a guide, you are in a position to determine that for yourself and for your Web site.