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DESIGN USABILITY

Easy as A,B,C – dynamic A to Z indexes


It's a good idea to offer your visitors as many logical ways to navigate your website as possible. This gives them more chances to find exactly the product or information for which they came to your site in the first place. Sitemaps are a wonderful solution, but many of your visitors may find an A to Z index of your site easier to understand. Chris Heilmann explains how to implement such an index.

Author Info:
By: Chris Heilmann
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 37
March 30, 2005
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Easy as A,B,C – dynamic A to Z indexes
  2. · Our friend the user agent
  3. · The Redmond spoiler
  4. · Making the list dynamic
  5. · Customizing the script

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Easy as A,B,C – dynamic A to Z indexes
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A welcome shortcut for visitors on text-heavy websites is an A to Z index of the services offered. Much like the sitemap, it offers a fast way to find what you need on the site. An index is even more user-focused. The sitemap reflects the structure of the site – something that is only relevant to visitors when it is badly implemented in the navigation. An A to Z index shows all the things users can get out of a site, structured in a way that is easy to grasp and well known - alphabetically. Government websites in the United Kingdom are legally bound to offer an A to Z index, and yes, they can be very hard to navigate or structure logically.

The examples described in this article are all contained in the accompanying zip file.

Planning the A to Z

We put the content of the A to Z index to the side now; you should know best what to add and what to omit when listing your services. If you don’t, ask your visitors. Let’s talk about the Web functionality instead.

There are several ways to design an A to Z index technically on the Web.

Depending on the size of your site, the content can be too overwhelming for one page, so you will split it up into several pages dynamically on the server. This will also make it easy to add extra functionality, like a search.

An A to Z index split up into 26 pages and an index is good for faster loading times and easier maintenance, but it also means an extra click and page load for a functionality that should be a shortcut on the site. A website of moderate size – and you can define “moderate” by using an underused technology called “common sense” – can fit an A to Z index onto one page.


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