In designing Casebook: Jack the Ripper, we had serious concerns about the way in which our information would be presented. The Casebook is unique among most websites of this genre. Whereas other "educational" websites tend to act as supplements for more in-depth printed material, or more often, as poorly-written synopses, the Casebook has striven to become a complete, self-sufficient educational resource on the subject. Students of all levels of interest should find the information they desire - introductory materials for the novices, in-depth analyses for the intermediates, and up-to-date primary-source material for the experts.
This approach to the subject has resulted in a truly mammoth website - and a unique organizational problem. How do we present our data in a manner which is both logical and economical, and which will allow our users to easily navigate to the pages which interest them most?
What you see before you is the solution we have discovered.
We have organized the website into sixteen different sections, as seen on the main menu on the left of every page. Within these sections there are often one or more subsections, broken down by topic. Together, this creates an organizational hierarchy which is always mapped out at the top and bottom of every page. (see diagram, ). This "breadcrumbing" gives our users a quick and easy roadmap to the information they are currently viewing, as well as the hierarchical levels above their current document which may interest them as well.
Another major issue arises due to the sheer size of many of our pages. To cut down on download time, we have split our larger pages into a series of sub-pages. A page divided in this way will always have a parenthetical indicator following the title. For example, Mary Jane Kelly (1 of 7) indicates that the page titled Mary Jane Kelly consists of seven sub-pages, and the user is currently viewing the first of those pages. You may navigate subpages either by using the "previous" and "next" options provided at the bottom of each page, or by using our "Quick Nav" box on the top right of every page (see diagram, ).
The "Quick Nav" box has six different options. You may navigate to the previous and/or next page by using the backwards and forwards arrows, when available. You may also display all subpages of a certain page at once by selecting the middle, downward-pointing arrow. You may later contract the page back into subpages by selecting the middle, upward-pointing arrow (visible only when in "Show all pages" display). If you know the subpage you wish to view, you may also jump straight to that page using the "Go to:" feature (in black) at the bottom of the "Quick Nav" box. Finally, for page information and citations, you may select the "Info" button at the right, which will display the page title, size, date of modification, and all relevant bibliographic information.
Our largest problem, however, was that users were not able to find a great deal of information related to their topic of interest, largely because the information they desired was tucked away in a long-forgotten section of the website. To combat this, we have created a "Related Pages" feature at the bottom of most pages (see diagram, ). Every page on the Casebook has been assigned a topic or topics, according to the subject matter covered on each page. At the bottom of each page will appear a linked listing of all other pages containing the same topic, broken down first by topic matter, and then by the section of the Casebook in which this page may be found. For example, if a user is viewing the Francis Tumblety suspects page, they will find related links to The Grave of Francis Tumblety, The Littlechild Letter, relevant press reports which mentioned Tumblety, etc. etc.
These are the three major changes we have implemented in the new Casebook design, but in the end, it is up to you, the user, to tell us how we can better organize our website for your use. If you have any comments or questions, please send them to Stephen P. Ryder at firstname.lastname@example.org.