Standards and guidelines
A user-centred approach
A user-centred approach to managing public knowledge facilitates equitable access to information via the Internet. The development and application of standards and guidelines for document management and web site usability is central to The Regional Institute's technical agenda.
In the electronic environment, the author is the publisher. By standardising the structure of information in its source format, typically Microsoft Word, authors are able to automate and distribute the task of bringing the continuum of public knowledge together in a way that meets the needs of different user groups from nuclear physicists and cell biologists to farmers and rural health care workers.
The Regional Institute is working with a number of academic and research organisations to develop guidelines and templates for authors working in Microsoft Word. An automated "Word to Web" publishing system allows documents to be formatted and archived in standardised Microsoft Word templates and delivered via the Internet in open HTML format.
We use a fruit-packing analogy to describe the "Word to Web" publishing system (see www.regional.org.au/au/asa/2001/5/a/johnson.htm. Most of the effort required to share information in electronic format occurs at the source (typically in Microsoft Word).
A template is applied to automate the output to HTML in a standard (Unix) directory structure. Standard navigation features and site structure are automatically incorporated in the HTML publication. A consistent look and feel or theme is applied to each publication. Graphic design, often the most expensive part of any publishing, is minimised by using a templated approach based on basic, web-friendly colours and low resolution images.
Rapid access for website users
- Information is accessible in HTML format, rather than proprietary formats, such as PDF, which tend to create large files that are slow to download and present technical barriers to users.
- The site is content rich and user-friendly.
- Information is easily browsed and searched.
- Anyone can contribute information in standard word processing formats and the publishing process is automated and shared amongst authors.
- The static website address (URL) makes referencing easy.
- The browsable hyper-linked environment has the highest accessibility and usability for online learning and educational or personal use.
Cost effective publishing for organisations
- Standards for information delivery are adopted.
- Information is archived in standardised Word format.
- Large amounts of content can be automatically published to an open, accessible HTML format.
- The role of the web master is reduced and investment in web site development is allocated to helping people improve the way they manage information.
- Opportunities to communicate with stakeholders are improved.
- The process is efficient and cost effective.
Pathways to learning
- The Internet provides new pathways for learning.
- It enables us to re-think the way we manage knowledge.
- Knowledge and understanding are the cornerstones for development and growth in our business and social communities.
- We need access to information on which to build this knowledge.
- Vast amount of information has been accumulated in Australia.
- There are no technical barriers to making this information freely accessible to farmers, students, industry and community.
- All it takes is purpose.
Be part of the Regional Network
Your ideas, comments, expertise, papers and articles are part of the public debate about our future. If you have a contribution to make to The Regional Institute please contact us.