Information Design

Here's a case study on some of the issues that can arise in a mobile-first world, which we're now entering.
tl;dr - make sure your mobile visitors are seeing the full monty, because that's what Google is going to index.

Google has clearly explained that site owners should make sure their mobile URLs contain the same content as the desktop pages. Those mobile URLs will be the ones used for ranking purposes and to understand structured data.

CGSHR Homepage

The new site for
The Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
had its "soft-launch" yesterday. The site is live and usable, but the owners still have a few things they'd like to tweak.
Little do they know, web sites are never really finished - so for all intents and purposes, this is the real thing.

Probably the most interesting part of the project from my point of view was the heavy customization of Apache Solr search results, and the whole search experience. This was mostly accomplished via templates in the site's theme. I'll share a few details in case anyone's interested.

To begin with, this is a Drupal site - specifically D7. The owners had an initial design and a sort of prototype site built by a previous developer in D7, which they handed off to me. That work was done cleanly and competently, but it was clear the client wanted to go so much further than the original builder was prepared to go. I'm not sure what transpired, though I did have a friendly chat with them, but in any case they were out of the picture by the time I got involved.

When I received the site, the first thing I did was to stage it on my Drupion server. Drupion are like family to me, and I've trusted them to help me grow my Drupal business, so it was an easy pick. When the client agreed to host with me for production, that made the decision that much more rational.

Drupion got Solr and Tika set up right away. Solr is a much more powerful search tool than the built-in Drupal search, capable of handling a very large number of indexable items. More info on that here. It runs as a separate server process, and needs about half a Gig of RAM. Tika is an add-on to Solr, which allows searching inside documents such as Word, PDF and other files that are not normally presentable on the web. The client has quite a number of academic research papers and other documents in these formats, so the ability to search inside them was essential.

Once Solr was running and had started indexing the site's content, we looked at what Facets to use for searches. Facets are basically filters - they allow you to limit searches to, say, one content type, or a particular taxonomy term.


Above, you can see the some of the facets for the overall site search Here we've searched for "Gender" - a term guaranteed to return lots of results on this site.

On the left are check boxes that allow the user to narrow down the search to a particular Country, Region, etc. There's also a facet for Content type. On this site, content types mostly correspond to the type of document or media being shown - Citations, Research, Films, etc.
But you can restrict your search to one content type equally well by using the tabs along the top of the main content area - Films, Lectures, etc.
Clicking one of these will retain the same search terms, but narrow your results down to a single content type (if you want to search 2 content types, you'll have to use the checkboxes on the "All" tab).

In order to get these individual tabs implemented, I set up a separate search environment for each of the key content types. This allowed me to set facets and Bias for each (which we may want to leverage later).

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 07 15 PM

Next, I made pages for each content type. Each Page has its own title, and most of them (except "All") are limited to a particular Bundle (bundles are essentially content types, at the machine level. Check out D7's Entity system for more info). Because they all have paths that look like /search/--bundle--, they're showing up as tabs on the /search page. Neat :-)

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 09 53 PM

In my next post I'll show how Facet blocks are set up, and talk about theming the search results. Finally, I'll show some of the Views on the site, which offer more of a browsing experience, which I think complements the Search pages nicely.


Screen shot 2011 02 20 at 5 19 37 PM

Virender Ajmani, who has a talent for Google maps mashups, has created a new one that lets you see Tweets in realtime from several countries in the Middle east that are experiencing popular unrest.

From the developer's blog:

Here’s a look at Middle East “Protests” on Twitter which are mapped out on Google Maps. This Google Maps Mashup shows the latest tweets from around Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Iran tagged with the respective country names. The map animates thru the latest protest tweets from the region. The tweets are displayed at geotagged location on the map at an interval of 5 seconds.

Mibazaar TweetMap page

Developer's blog

via BoingBoing

Screen shot 2009-10-09 at 2.57.59 PM.png
A cute post from Gerry McGovern, illustrating the fallacy of flooding website visitors with information when all they really want is to get something done:

It took time. Lots of counseling. I had many relapses. The doctors told me that I had spent too much time with too many web teams who didn’t live in the real world. These web teams built websites full of information without any real understanding of what their customers actually wanted. These web teams thought people came looking for information, when in fact people had specific tasks that they wanted to solve. Information was only a means to an end. It was not the end.

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