This document gives a summary of the reports from the workshop discussion group sessions.

Design Group

The Design Discussion Group was chaired by David Murie. The reporter was Alan Leavy, Loughborough College of Art and Design. Seventeen participants attended this discussion group.

A summary of the main points follows.

Get help - don't reinvent the wheel. Look at history. Go back to 30s and learn lessons e.g. clarity, use of space, etc. from graphical designers. Don't get too tied up with technological issues.

Have links to examples of bad design for design seminars.

Alan Leavy suggested that there was "no such thing as bad design". Bad design is a learning experience - OK for students, but probably not for institutional pages.

A consistent identity across a website is desirable. However it does not have to have the same weight across all web pages. Different departments will have an identity of their own. Therefore use the "signature" in different ways, so the website isn't too "same".

Some people are happy with lots of graphics and aren't concerned with the slow download times.

Why design for the lowest level of user - you'll miss out on visual excitement. On the other hand some people argued that "the information be the exciting thing." There needs to be a half-way house between these two positions.

Two institutes had employed an external web design company - one reported favourably on the experience, the other, however, was unhappy with the experience. The latter designer company had a print design background, which was not relevant to web design.

A personal recommendation may be helpful. When producing a design brief, first define the content and the audience's requirements. Don't start designing immediately.

External designers are useful to avoid "ego" issues. "This is 'my' site - what do you think?"


  1. Organise a workshop on accessibility issues - e.g. access for the visually impaired, users in 3rd world countries.
  2. Provide pointers to recommendations on copyright issues.

Following the last recommendation somebody asked if you could link to somebody without their permission? There was uncertainty as to the current legal position (i.e. the Shetland Times case).

One participant said that in his institute the legal departments have advised against providing definitive copyright statements.

For further information see the Library Association and Southampton web rules and regulations.

Look at It looks good, but is an example of bad design as the text is all graphics. Engineering Council happy with their design company - CHD.

Information Flow

The Information Flow discussion group was chaired by Colin Work. The reporter was Astrid Wissenburg. Eleven participants attended this discussion group.

The themes of the discussion group were:

  1. The Web is new and therefore there are many new issues to consider. Everyone has high expectations but there is often a lack of resources to achieve these high expectations. Top-down or bottom-up design methodologies can be employed.

    Strategy documents and guidelines are used by about half of the discussion group members. Others developing them. These documents are valuable, but authority to implement guidelines can be difficult.

    In order to provide personal home pages acceptable use policies and complaints procedures are needed. This will, of course, raise issues of control versus academic freedom.

  2. What type of information (and minimum levels) of information should departments provide?

    The web is a red herring - this is institutional information policy.

    Tools are needed to manage the information.

    Metadata is needed to manage the information.


Set up a Working Group to look into administrative metadata. This will be headed by Colin Work on behalf of UCISA TLIG-INFS.

Establish national UK HE recommendations for administrative metadata.

Workshop participants should email Colin Work if they want to join up.

Web Tools

This discussion group was chaired by David Lomas. David also gave the report. Twelve participants attended this discussion group.

The group revisited the six areas of web tools.

The need for immediate solutions was raised - "we can't wait for the evaluation, CHEST deals, etc."

What do we need:


Set up a group called <WEBTAG> (Web Tools Advisory Group) to coordinate this work.

There was a questions as to whether UK Web Focus could carry out the work of WEBTAG i.e. Should UK Web Focus get JISC money for WEBTAG.


This discussion group was chaired by George Neisser. The Reporter was Paul Collins, University of Keele. Ten participants attended this discussion group.

Caching will be of increasing importance (cf. charging for US link).

Need to have statistics.

HENSA cache lost credibility - the new national caching service must address this.

Need to provide cache configuration files for use within the community and advice on configuration options.

Need to encourage community to use email lists.

Need for each institute to have cache expert / liaison person.

Need to pass on advice within institutions.

Need for a FAQ.

Need for involvement with Netskills - Justin McNeil informed the group that Netskills were working on this.

A couple of questions / comments were raised:

Q. How often are pages in cache updated?
A. This depends on cache configuration, browser in use etc. 30 mins to a few days.

Q. Caching can slow things down. A. A response to this should be included in a FAQ.


Andy Powell, UKOLN, chaired this discussion group. The reporter was Amanda Boe, University of Sussex. Fourteen participants attended this discussion group.

The subject area was new to several members of the discussion group, some of whom were unaware how of metadata was currently implemented - for example "How do search engines work - do they use metadata?".

Everyone agreed that metadata was good in theory. The major question was "How do you implement it, especially in a distributed environment? Are there tools to help? Can it be automated?"

There were some sceptics about the immediate benefits of Dublin Core: Will big organisations use it? Will Alta Vista use it? This is felt to be a chicken and egg sitution. It is suggested that we set up a small pilot e.g. use of Dublin Core within institutional home pages.

Several members of the discussion group carried out some exercises in searching for University prospectuses using Alta Vista. Most reported problems in searching - inappropriate search results (e.g. searching for Bath Prospectus gets "The Canterbury Tales"!), too many or too few hits.


Let's use DC with UK HE Prospectuses and a UK search engine.

Let's produce guidelines for management of metadata.

Trials and Tribulations of a Web Editor

This discussion group was chaired by Damon Querry, University of Newcastle. The reporter was Jeremy Speller, UCL. Fourteen participants attended this discussion group.

What is a web editor? There were many different definitions from participants. Only 3 people involved fulltime with web. Most do it in their spare time. This is a (senior) management problem: "the web is a waste of time" The web needs to be treated as integral part of the institution information service.


Need national briefing session for the CVCP - on current state of the web in UK HE. Carefully pitched - don't mention "caching", mention money!

Web editors also act as trainers. Need to raise profile of training. Need training for the trainer.

Need nationally recommended tools (see Web Tools group).

Most mailbase lists are too technical. Use of website-info-mgt list should be encouraged.

Web editors have problems in getting material for use on the web. They need to collaborate with a wide range of groups throughout their institute.

Web editors make lots of assumptions about websites - but shouldn't we be speaking to the users (e.g. departments).

Legal, copyright issues. are important. CWIS editors might not have expertise to formulate a copyright statement. Should Web Editors receive training in legal issues?

Design. In contrast to the Design Discussion Group, it was pointed out that bland design makes it easier to get information on the web.

The following URLs were provided as useful sources of further information Guide to Good Practices For WWW Authors, Margaret Isaacs, Glasgow University, Department of Computing Science, February 1996 A Comprehensive Survey Of The Legal Issues Relating To The Development And Use Of World Wide Web Technology At Educational Sites, Andrew Charlesworth, Information Law And Technology Unit, University Of Hull Law School, June 1996

A full list of SIMA reports is available at

"How to Set Up and Maintain a Web Site", Lincoln D. Stein, 1997, 0-201-63462-7, US$39.76

Web page maintained by Brian Kelly
Page last revised on: 25-Jul-1997