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Mike wonders: <<I have been called on to develop a prototype for both an
electronic and a paper documentation repository, which will likely contain a
combined total of about 750 documents. I recognize that a prototype is
generally some sort of working model, but I'm a bit confused as to where a
good starting point for designing such a prototype
The best starting point is with the people who will use the repository,
since whatever you design must meet their needs first and foremost. Find out
how they typically refer to (name) and use (access) the documents, then
create a structure that lets them find information in that manner--then test
the prototype with these users to be sure that they can actually use it to
find information. You can create this prototype in any HTML authoring
software very quickly, and redesign it very quickly too. Once you've got
something that works, you can actually start putting information into it.
Seriously consider including some kind of index; search engines are still
primitive, and a good index is still one of the finest tools ever invented
for quickly finding information.
Don't forget that any kind of online repository inevitably grows, and this
means you'll have to allow for growth. Talk to the people who will be
generating content for this repository (both users and managers) to find out
what they think might conceivably become part of the repository in
future--even if it's a seemingly silly idea and has a low probability of
ever occurring. Then test your prototype to be sure that you can add these
new information types without major disruption. If not, go back to the
drawing board and figure out how. One thing's for sure: if you don't leave
room to grow, the repository will eventually become difficult or impossible
to update and use.
--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
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