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 Indexing Specialties: Web Sites

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Hedden Information Management

Indexing Specialties: Web Sites
by Heather Hedden

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Table of Contents
Foreword by Seth Maislin
Index (PDF)
Review from Key Words, Oct-Dec 2007 (PDF)


The idea to write this book came from a workshop I have given online and at indexing conferences. More and more, indexers are being asked to adapt their print indexes to the electronic environment or to write indexes specifically for web sites. From the enthusiastic reception of the workshop, I could see a need to write a book that provides step-by-step instruction and practical tips on how to create web site indexes using various kinds of software. Aimed at experienced and novice indexers, the book focuses on hyperlinked back-of-the book style indexes for web sites, intranets, or sub-sites. I have provided more detailed instruction than available elsewhere on the use of all the various software packages for the creation of web site indexes, including the HTML output options of dedicated book indexing software.

The book starts with an overview of HTML codes for both hyperlinks and for various methods to create indented subentries. I also discuss choice of content and term development specific to web site indexes. This particular aspect of web indexing has not been covered in other publications. The final chapter includes information on the freelance market and provides marketing tips for freelancers seeking to work on web site indexing.

While acknowledging that the field of “web indexing” is broad in scope, I have purposely kept the scope of this book narrower so I could focus on a practical “how-to” approach. The larger field of web indexing also includes such topics as converting a printed book index to a hyperlinked web site index, indexing online help, creating a web-based database index, and indexing web pages with metadata keywords for search engine retrieval. Each of these topics is worthy of its own treatise just as my subject of how to create hyperlinked web site indexes is able to fill a book. I also chose to write this book as a single author rather than follow the format of other ASI publications that used multiple contributors. By having the viewpoint of one author, the explanations flow more cohesively and have uniformity in style and purpose.

This book meets a need that has not been satisfied although two books have previously been published in the field of web indexing. Glenda Browne and Jon Jermey’s book Website Indexing: Enhancing Access to Information within Websites (Auslib Press, 2002 and 2004), takes a broader approach to the field of web indexing and thus provides fewer step-by-step instructions on the specific topic of creating hyperlinked A-Z indexes. James Lamb’s self-published book Website Indexes: Visitors to Content in Two Clicks (, 2006), on the other hand, has an even narrower scope, since it is devoted to only one software tool, XRefHT.

I have offered a series of online web site indexing courses since 2005. Readers of this book may wonder whether they should also take these courses. While the online courses include exercises not part of this book, as well as most significantly live links to web site indexes and other resources on the web, the difference is that the course provides participants with feedback on their work and the opportunity to participate in a dedicated discussion group. Meanwhile, past or current course students may wonder if it is also worth buying this book. This book encompasses the content of all of the courses or modules (with the exception of related topics of database, taxonomies, and metadata indexing), and will serve as a companion reference work for the courses. The online workshop offered through Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science Continuing Education program is actually a shortened course, covering about half of the material discussed in this book. The book also has additional sections, such as the history of web site indexing, and material updated since fall 2006. For those who have only read the material online, print documentation makes a ready reference while working on a web site index at the computer.

Writing the book has allowed me to be comprehensive in a way that neither online discussion nor class lecture has. This book includes instructions on a number of software programs. Some of them I use routinely while others rarely. Although I have made every attempt to be accurate and thorough, it is still possible that I have overlooked a helpful feature or procedure related to one or more of the programs. My purpose here is to give sufficient information so you can at least get started creating web site indexes with the software tool of your choice. I have tested my directions and know that they work, but there may be other shortcuts or methods that more experienced users of the software know and can apply to get the same results that I got.

At the time I was considering a career in freelance indexing, I was also considering a career in web site design or information architecture. Web site indexing allowed me to combine both of these interests. I do take on back-of-the-book indexing, but web sites indexing is just more fun to do and provides diversity in my work. At the time of this writing, the demand for freelance web site indexing is slowly growing, and it is my belief that the more people there are who can offer such services, the greater the awareness and subsequent demand will be for web indexes. Because there has not been adequate specialized training for web site indexing, many of the existing web site indexes suffer from poor quality. It is my hope that as more high-quality web site indexes become available, the more they will be appreciated and the more they will be requested by web site owners. Therefore, those of us who index web sites welcome more indexers into our ranks.

As I mentioned already, I am not a regular user of all the types of software that I discuss in Chapter 4. I wish to acknowledge feedback and corrections from the various vendors and representatives of the major types of dedicated indexing software: from Gale Rhoades for taking the time to explain HTML indexing in Macrex, Kamm Schreiner for his comments on SKY Index Professional, and David Ream, for his feedback on using HTML/Prep with CINDEX. Going beyond their own software tools, Gale also helped me understand the distinction between outputting an HTML index and converting a book index to HTML, and Kamm also made it clear to me that a URL can be entered into any field of the book indexing software.

I also wish to acknowledge Seth Maislin who first got me interested in back-of-the-book style indexing, Kevin Broccoli for teaching me the basics of web site indexing, Dwight Walker for sharing with me the history of web site indexing and for making me aware of Tim Craven and his XRefHT freeware, and James Lamb for inspiring me to write a book on web indexing by his own recent example. Until I read James’ explanations, I was not aware of all of XRefHT’s features, such as its capability in converting indexes. I greatly appreciated Tim Craven presentation on XRefHT at last year’s ASI conference at my request and his answering of subsequent questions. Marilyn Rowland and Diane Brenner, editors of Beyond Book Indexing and prior officers of my ASI chapter (New England), have served as professional models for me. If I had not known the editors of that volume personally, I might not have endeavored to follow in their footsteps and write a new ASI book. More than just an acknowledgment, but a great big thanks goes to ASI Publications Chair Enid Zafran for accepting my book proposal and tirelessly editing every page in detail. Finally, I thank ASI and Web Indexing SIG member Linda Kenny Sloan for writing the index of this book.

Heather Hedden
December 2006