About THL > Help > THL Home Resources > THL Home Help > Help with Basic Navigation of Pages
THL is a publisher of web sites, each of which is a self-contained web site with its own distinctive banner and menu system. However, there are basic design and navigational principles common to all THL-published web sites designed to enable users familiar with one such web site to also be at home with the basic functionality of any other THL-published web site. These common design components include:
- a top banner with the name of the relevant resource written across a background image, and a left hand THL logo linked to the THL home page
- a top primary horizontal menu of tabs indicating the main sections of the website beneath the banner
- a right-hand side secondary vertical menu of expandable/collapsible options and suboptions specific to active section indicated in the primary menu
- a footer at the bottom of the page with links to a standard set of informational items
- the main content area below the banner and primary menu and to the left of the secondary menu
The Tibetan and Himalayan Library has its own web site as well, which offers information about THL, an index to all the web sites it published, and access to collaborative resources which are used by THL web sites. Users stay within the THL website – with its distinctive banner and menu system - as long as they are reading the informational web pages, or consulting the collaborative resources – such as the image collections, place dictionary, and so forth. However, once you link to a thematic web site published by THL, in effect you will find a completely different web site with a different banner and menu system. However, all THL published web sites retain the THL logo in the banner linking back to THL’s own home page, as well as a right hand side “THL Index” that links to a full list of all other THL published web sites.
The THL web site page has a primary horizontal menu bar of tabs which organize THL web sites and resources into nine sections:
- Home: informational pages about THL overall.
- Projects: this highlights all projects
- Collections: resources by format - mages, audio-video, immersive objects, maps, Tibetan texts, essays, journals, books.
- Places: resources organized in relationship to places, cultures, and communities.
- Encyclopedias: web sites organized by theme - literature, medicine, religion, and so forth.
- Reference: resources organized in relationship to finding aids - dictionaries, bibliographies, and so forth.
- Education: instructional resources and programs.
- Community: resources for Tibetan communities, tools for networking, information about THL particpants, and so forth.
- Tools: documentation and tools for all aspects of creating and using THL resources.
Explore THL's structure by clicking on each tab in turn, and examining the content in each area. Please note that each tab has a different home page, and that each home page has a unique secondary navigation vertical menu bar on the right. The right side vertical "accordion" menu is so called because clicking on any option will automatically expand its suboptions, and collapse whatever other option had previously been expanded. When first using the site, click around to see how it works, and explore the contents to which it provides access. Clicking on a suboption will then display the corresponding resource to the left on the main part of the page. The small square to the left of the option has a + in it when it is collapsed, and a - in it when it is expanded. Please note that in some cases an option may have no suboptions, which is indicated by a square dot in the square, and in which case clicking on it will display the corresponding content to the left instead of expanding into a list of suboptions.
The home page for the portal overall, as well as potentially the home pages for each of the main sections corresponding to the top menu bar, is used to highlight the content in the website. The various elements of these home pages – “Features,” “Spotlights,” “News,” and so forth – can be easily changed by the website’s director or manager without special technical knowledge. Thus the intention is that the home pages have changing content that shift the spotlights and update news so that users have a sense of the project as a dynamic resource under development. Even if the project is not changing significantly, these features are used to highlight various resources, so that regular users over the course of time will have their attention drawn to different resources within the overall website. A balance is struck in the home pages – for the Website overall, or for one of the main sections of the website corresponding to the tabs in the top menu bar – pointing users to the main content, providing a comprehensive outline of all content, and offering a temporary and changing spotlight on select content. The THL design of home pages is not intended to provide in the main content area a comprehensive outline of all resources for dense websites, but rather the ability to highlight news and specific resources in an attractive and informative way. The secondary right hand side navigation, in contrast, is intended to provide an exhaustive outline of resources. Of course if the website has relatively modest amounts of content, then it may be straightforward to give a comprehensive presentation of content on the home page. Otherwise, complex websites requiring pointing point users to its relevant sections instead for a full presentation of its resources.
The top banner has a background image and title specific to the Website in question. There is a generic THL banner with its background images of mountains and THL title which is used on the THL home page and other general resource pages. Otherwise each website published by THL has its own unique banner, and when you choose one of those websites, the generic THL frame will be replaced by the distinctive look and feel of the chosen website. Other features of the banner are the THL logo on its far left which is hyperlinked to the THL home page, and a link to a THL site map on the banner’s far right which provides a popup that presents key THL areas and corresponding hyperlinks.
Directly below the banner is a horizontal menu bar of tabs which name the main sections of the website. This menu bar never changes and is persistent throughout the website. The active tab is indicated by it being white, in contrast to the other tabs which remained colored. The first menu tab is also HOME, which corresponds to the website’s home page. The other tabs, however, also have subsidiary home pages which provide an overview of the contents of the corresponding sections. Thus to understand what content a given website has, the first step is to look over these sections/tabs and explore them. As you select a new tab, the top banner and horizontal menu bar will stay the same, but the content in the main content area as well as the right hand side vertical menu bar are specific to the active tab and will change as you change tabs. This is indicated by the label for the active menu tab being repeated the top of the right hand side menu. Thus, for example, in the Sera Monastery Portal, if you click on the top “Spaces” tab, the right hand side menu then has “Spaces” at its top and its options are specific to that “Spaces” section of the Sera Monastery website.
On the right hand side is a vertical secondary menu of options and sub-options. It can be shown or hidden. If it is hidden, in the upper right hand corner of the web page just beneath the "THL Index", you will see the words "Show Menu". Click on it, and the menu will drop down. Some THL published pages will hide the menu by default so that the space beneath it can be used for display of content; however you can also temporarily drop the menu down over the content to use it.
This secondary menu is called an accordion style menu in the sense that when you click on a given option, its sub-options expand underneath it; when you click on another option, those sub-options collapse as the other option’s sub-options expand. Clicking on an option or suboption will activate that so that the main content area of the webpage changes to provide the corresponding content.
This right hand side menu bar may be persistent throughout a website, or it may be that it is specific to the top menu bar tab which is active, and so a given THL website may have multiple right hand side menu bars. If the secondary navigation menu is specific to a tab, the label for the active tab is also displayed as a top label above this secondary menu to indicate the menu is specific to that section of the website. This secondary menu is intended to provide users a means to navigate their way to all resources contained by the website overall, or the active section of the website. Thus the options and sub-options provide a comprehensive but clearly organized guide to all relevant resources herein.
The actual top level options in the menu bar follow a standard sequence. The top option is termed “Introduction” and includes a standard range of informational sub-options:
- Overview: an introduction to the subject matter of the website as well as to the website as such; its opening lines appear in the central top area of the portal home page.
- How to Use This Site: a guide as to how to navigate the site.
- Status: a report on the site’s present status, including plans for future expansion.
- Participants: a presentation of the site’s directors, staff, contributors, and all other participants.
- How to Participate: instructions on how new contributors can participate in the website’s development.
- Donors: a list of financial supports of the website.
- Contact: the means to email the website’s managers.
This option is followed by a series of options devoted to the content published by this website. These options and suboptions are comprehensive so that a user can find their way to every area of content through reliance upon them. The secondary navigation includes top level options which basically more or less – but necessarily completely – mirror the top menu bar’s tabs. This allows users to essentially see a type of site map of the site without having to go to the different tabs. In addition, it is extra insurance that users will get the point of how the website has various sections that need to be explored to see the full structure and content of the website. In some cases, if top tabs are connected in some way, and don’t have so many different types of components that they require suboptions on the secondary menu bar, then they might be grouped together as a single top order option on the secondary menu with the various types of components as secondary suboptions.
At the bottom, there is a double line, with the label “General Links”. All options below this are “General Links” which provide access to other related THL resources – such as a list of Encyclopedias on each Encyclopedia website, and so forth – including a final one which is a standard “THL Global" option which gives access to the main THL domains (projects, collections, reference, etc.).
When coming to a given page, generally the “introduction” option is expanded to show its suboptions by default. However, in some cases, when it is important to highlight a list of core suboptions, it may be that another option is expanded by default. An example is the “Tools” home page, which has the list of all the documentation headers in the Toolbox open by default, since most users will want to just choose one of its sub-options immediately.
Above the secondary menu is “Preferences”, a label which produces a popup that allows you to change the font size on the site, decide if you want to see tooltips or not when placing the cursor on a secondary menu option, and finally specify what language you would like for the interface of the website.
Also above the secondary menu is an integrated search box, along with a link to an advanced search.
An additional feature of the secondary menu bar is that when a complex resource is being displayed in the main content area of the web page, the entire menu collapses upwards. In this way, the entire space can be used for the content in question, while the menu can be reexpanded as a drop down over the content if one wants to navigate back to another resource.
The main content area is located below the top banner and primary menu bar, and to the left of the right hand side vertical menu bar, is the main content area of the website. Here is where the portal’s home pages are displayed, which correspond to the portal’s main home, but also to its main sections corresponding to the tabs of the website’s topmost menu bar. In addition, as specific applications, projects and resources are accessed, the corresponding content is displayed in this content area.
The main content area of the portal home page is devoted to a series of boxes with content derived from Wiki pages. Each box has a label indicating the type of content they hold – a spotlight, a feature, news, etc. – and then a few opening words and a link to the rest of the content labeled “read more”. When “read more” is linked on, the full document in question opens up and replaces the home page. Small thumbnail pictures can also be added to these boxes. These boxes are intended to be periodically updated, so that they provide a changing spotlight to users on varying aspects of the Website.
The top of the content area in its center repeats the name of the website, below which is an overview that introduces both the website and its subject. This is intended to be relatively stable in content, but should be updated periodically either as the website changes or simply to improve and refine the overview in general. Below the centrally placed introductory lines, there is a standard line in a distinctive font for first time users to be oriented towards the use of the top menu bar tabs: “Use the tabs on the top menu bar to explore the main sections of this website.”
The “overview” strikes a balance between introducing the project behind the website, the website, and the subject matter. The general guideline is to focus on the subject matter, and rely upon the “How to Use This Site” to introduce the website’s structure, “Status” to rely its present status and plans, and “Participants” to detail the director, host organizations, and other participants. The opening paragraph should discuss the website’s scope and structure while also introducing the subject matter, but the remainder of the overview should focus on the subject matter and its significance. However, if the Website has a single director and host organization that should be highlighted above all else, then the overview’s opening line specifies both. An example is the following from the Sera Monastery portal: “This portal is directed by Professor José Cabezón of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Sera Monastery has been one of Tibet’s premier monastic educational institutions from its founding in the early fifteenth century until the present…”
Below this is a series of information links that are also detailed under “Introduction” in the right hand side menu: How to Use This Site, Status, Participants, How to Participate, Donors, Contact.
If the site in question has a central searachable resource, then a search box with link to advanced search will be centrally featured in the top part of the content area. Otherwise, the remainder of the main content area is populated by a variety of boxes that have a few opening lines, and possibly a small picture, with a “read more” linking to the full discussion. These include:
- Learn What’s New in…
- Featured Resource
- Featured Project
- Featured Place, Featured Words, Featured Texts, etc.
- Contributor Spotlight
- Staff Spotlight
- On the Horizon
- Tibetan Word of the Day, Place of the Day, etc.
THL portal home pages are designed to be customizable by portal directors who lack any expertise in website creation. With the simple mastery of THL Wikis, which requires no more than fifteen minutes of training, an individual can easily adjust texts and pictures on the portal home page. Thus the central introduction, status, featured project, and so forth are all easily changeable in a matter of minutes, with the changes immediately published for all to see once saved. In this way, portal pages can have dynamic and current content without any expense or delays incurred by having to involve THL paid staff in the process.
Sectional home pages are the pages corresponding to the tabs in the top primary menu bar. These can potentially look very much like the portal page with most of its design element. However, they are more concerned to give a comprehensive picture of the content it contains. In particular, it may include an advanced search page, or a browseable hierarchy, or some other immediate content.
The bottom of each web page has a footer that is a horizontal series links to basic general information.