Advanced Knowledge Management techniques make complex website easy to use - Simplifying the Jonge Helden web presence by going from 6 to 36 websites - Genias2


Simplifying the Jonge Helden web presence by going from 6 to 36 websites

Advanced Knowledge Management techniques make complex website easy to use

If you want to get help or support for children struggling with divorce or death, you do not want to get lost on a website.

This was, however, just what was happening with people visiting the website of the Foundation "Jonge Helden". Jonge Helden provides advise, guidance and information for children, and their relatives and teachers on how to handle difficult experiences when someone related to a child dies, or when parents get divorced.

Over the years the website expanded into 6 different websites for different audiences, with thousands of articles, tips and videos. Part of the content appeared in several of the websites.

The foundation Jonge Helden turned to 'Almere in Business" for help with the request to improve its web presence. After a quick inventory, Almere in Business realised this was not a job for an ordinary Word Press or Joomla based site. They needed something to handle these large amounts of data and present them in a simple way to visitors of the site. Readers who often use the site only for a few times, and that could range from young children to grand parents. That's why Almere in Business turned to Genias Benelux, an Almere company with over 30 years of experience in Knowledge Management. Genias proposed to look at Liferay. The Liferay portal system is as easy to use for a complex site as Word Press or Joomla, but has the advantage that content can be easily classified in categories and aggregrated using those categories. Categories in Liferay are built in the core of the system, so there is no need for separate plugins or addons. Categories in Liferay go beyond tags found in most other systems. Categories allow to hierarchically structure categories and subcategories.

Another useful feature for the development of the large Jonge Helden website, is that it is rather easy to create separate content structures and templates for individual content parts. The Jonge Helden for instance used  many tips, videos, book descriptions as part of their site. For each of these, a separate, customised form was created. This considerably speeds up data entry and eases maintenance.

Provided with an idea which Knowledge Management tools and web development tools could be useful, the Almere in Business team set out to design the web presence from scratch. This proved not as straightforward as expected. The issue is that one has to free itself from the idea that all web sites need an hierarchical structure that is reflected in the main menu of the web site.  In the Jonge Helden case this would have led to hierarchical menus of 10 levels deep, of which perhaps a few could be hidden, or the use of a mega-menu covering the whole page and presenting dozens of choices.

These options were quickly abandoned because they would have resulted in a user interface that would have become way too complicated or cluttered.

Looking at the categories defined for the content, it showed that there were three main categories that determined whether a piece of content was useful for a reader or not: first the relation to the child, second the type of problem it has to deal with, and third the age group.

Looking at the possible combinations, 36 of them proved useful. We dubbed them personas, so for instance, persona 15 is a parent of a child that has questions about divorce. Persona 6 is a child who has to deal with a deceased person in its environment.

For each of these 36 personas, an individual persona website was created. A persona website automatically collects the content relevant for that persona, based on categories assigned to the content. A simple triple choice menu directs a website visitor directly to the correct persona website.

Each persona web site still contains a wealth of information with access to dozens of articles, tips, videos and web links. Instead of creating a subsite with a separate hierarchical menu, the menu, graphical representations of 'tips', 'videos', etc., are embedded in the page itself and can be expanded by clicking on them. So in essence each of the 36 persona pages is a one-page website.

Although the basis of this structure was possible thanks to the categories of Liferay, it had to be augmented and expanded at several pages with additional programming, mainly in Javascript and XSLT.

So that was it? Almost. Almere in Business and Genias still faced the traditional challenges of any large website: entering thousands of pieces of web content and tagging them with the correct categories, creating templates to display the content on the 36 micro-websites, adding the common "About” and "Contact" pages, providing a guide for the future maintainers and web masters of Stichting Jonge Helden.

The new web presence of Stichting Jonge Helden can be found at:

The Almere in Business team can be found at:

and the Genias team at:

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