This project began life as an attempt to create a subsite for the Cornerhouse's Interventions work - a space to publish and organise the paper trails of legal documents, Freedom of Information requests, press reports etc... that emerge during investigations carried out by Cornerhouse researchers. But as the project plans unfolded, it became clear that new thinking for that content would also suit their legacy content as that was beginning to out-grow the ActionApps system that was built for it in 2003.
The challenge was to find a way of making their finely indexed and very diverse content, navigable by users approaching the site from a range of different content perspectives. Fixed hierarchical menu structures were rejected in favour of a faceted search as the central method of site navigation. This freed us from the head-thumpingly impossible task of constructing a single set of navigational pathways that would work for people regardless of whether theirs was a regional interest content, a case-specific interest, a process-specific interest or a thematic interest in the content.
The Faceted Search uses the same approach to documents, as online electronics shops use for fridges and DVD players. You choose your preferred keyword starting point to get an initial long list of relevant documents. And then instead of narrowing by brand, price, colour as you might for a fridge, the Cornerhouse site guides you through narrowing by relevant country, case, process or theme. In this way each user gets a search that tailors itself to their content interests.
With the navigation working smoothly, we then proceeded to import the legacy content from the ActionApps site, and elaborate the design to fit the new site schema. The result is a site that opens up their ark of valuable content to everyone without disorientating regular visitors more familiar with the old site.