The BGBM Website was created with the aim to improve the distribution of information about our activities, both internally and externally. The information content of a website should be determined by the user community it addresses. Our website can be accessed through the internet, but also by means of touch-screen terminals in the garden and museum. Thus, our users are a very heterogeneous group: tourists who come to the garden for sight-seeing, botanically interested amateurs, students, interested web-surfers in Berlin and anywhere, and of course our colleagues world-wide who seek information or want to use our facilities. These groups are not sharply delimited, e.g. the amateur who is a specialist on the taxonomy of a plant group; the journalist or anthropology student who needs fairly basic information.
Therefore the major sections of our site are defined with certain user categories in mind, but instead of a strict hierarchical structure the very nature of the web is used to provide cross-links in many ways.
We consider electronic publication to be equivalent to traditional publications with respect to our responsibility for content quality. Accordingly, the creation and maintenance of the majority of our pages is kept in the hands of our scientific staff, many of whom are editors of traditional publications.
Keeping information up-to-date is one of the principle problems - in contrast to a traditional publication, a user of the world wide web expects current information. Avoiding simultaneous changes done by several editors is another problem which is usually not that prevalent in traditional publishing. Several principles were implemented to ensure the quality of our website, among them:
- Separation of permanent content: Content which has to be updated is concentrated in as few documents as possible.
- Clear responsibilities: A group of persons is responsible for the contents of every page, only members of that group can change or edit the page.
- Short pathways: Creation and editing of web pages is put into the hand of the information provider. For example, all staff pages are made and updated by the individual staff member, the library pages are edited by the scientist responsible for the library, etc.
- Permanent storage: Once a page has been created, it is maintained at its location permanently.
The design of our web pages was guided principally by practical aspects. The distribution of quality information is clearly our main aim, so accessibility and quality control takes preference over design. The main principles:
- Uniform appearance: All pages maintained by our staff have the same design and offer the same navigation features.
- Keep it simple.
- Multi-browser support: All commonly used web clients should be able to display our pages properly; access with text-based clients should still be possible.
The basic administrative structure defined in detail before the site went on-line, because it is directly related to the location of the pages and thus to the individual page's address. Six groups are responsible for the contents of the non-personal information (see contact page).
The HTML files are written with Microsoft FrontPage. Most page editors directly edit the text of their pages, the others are assisted by one scientist and two graphical designers, the latter also being responsible for the preparation and incorporation of graphic illustrations.
W. Berendsohn & H. Sipman