A-Z Indexes for Web Sites: Usage and Implementation

What’s the level of interest among information architects and web developers in implementing A-Z indexes on their sites?

Why don’t we see more indexes? I attempted to answer this question in a posting an essay to IA-WIKI Web Site Indexes, although I have not yet received any comments there.

My sense is that even if information architects are interested in implementing A-Z indexes, they do not have the time, inclination, or skills to do it themselves (unless they are former librarians who had taken a course in indexing). Indexing is similar, yet distinct enough from category or taxonomy development to require specific training or study from a course or book. Yet information architects might not even know where to find contract indexers.

As indexing is a very established profession, it is probably easier for people who create web sites to look up indexers, than for indexers to try to target people creating web sites. Most indexers belong to the professional associations of their country, which maintain searchable online directories of subscribing members and contract job posting bulletins.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Using KWIC indexes may help

Letting systems do the work may help ease the pain. It is a lot of work to maintain A-Z indexes if you do them manually and show relationships of pages. On the site I have been working on, we have a Keyword in Context (KWIC) index of pages by title. This helps to some degree. I talked a little bit about the decision to go with this display on my weblog.

Web directories prefer categories

As a web designer I think I'm too much accustomed to the way web directories like dmoz organize sites in categories. If they implement an A-Z index a lot of people will try to name their sites starting with the letter "a" in order to appear first on their listings.
Webmaster Resources capmex.biz

KWIC indexes shift through every word

KWIC indexes shift through every word, so it doesn't matter what letter appears in the front of a label. Additionally, you can adjust your program to deal with words like articles so that they're ignored in the KWIC index. This, of course, may bring up issues if you have titles where the article needs to be used for some reason.

This is not new stuff. It's been done for a long time in printed indexes. What we're talking about is a method for supplementing browsing and can be used in addition to directory listings not as a replacement. I think the directory listings that you're referring to are usually restricted to one facet of description, e.g. subject. A-Z index are usually meant for people browsing for known item title where perhaps only part of the title is known.