Tricki
a repository of mathematical know-how

Content of front pages

Content of front pages

I have edited/created a couple of front pages in the last day or so, and so have given some thought to what there content should be. Looking at some other examples, it seems that people have tended to use them simply as a holder for links to other, more specific articles.

The front pages that I worked on were for Geometry and Algebraic Geometry, and at least for pages of this nature, which are about a fairly rich and broad branch of mathematics, it seemed to me that it made sense to try to give a capsule description of the subject area, and what some of its methods are.

I hope that in the long-term, these descriptions will serve as a nudge to have people flesh them out and create actual pages describing the full range of techniques that are relevant to solving problems in the area.

I also tried to indicate how the subject area can be used to solve problems in other (not necessarily obviously related) areas of mathematics. Again, I hope that these remarks will be fleshed out by others, with the creation of appropriate articles and links.

I hope that these short summaries will be useful for people trying to navigate from the top down, so as to provide some hint as to what an area of mathematics could be about, what its typical tools are, and what problems it can be used to solve, and will serve as a useful complement to the lists of links.

I'm curious whether others think that these are the appropriate kind of material to include at the top level. If so, maybe we should look through some of the other front pages and see if we can flesh out the quick descriptions a little bit.

I agree that it would be good to have text in front pages as well as links, and have done this in one or two places: see for example the extremal combinatorics front page, which actually goes further than you suggest. One issue is that we want it to be quick and convenient for people to follow links from front pages, so ideally they shouldn't have to scroll down a long way to the links. But there are ways of avoiding that, either by putting the links first or by using hidden text.

The extremal combinatorics front page is very nice. It certainly gives a nice model for other front pages to aspire to.

On the subject of front pages, a thought that has occurred to me more than once is that it could be good to do what already happens on some pages, and display links not just to the next level down but to the next two levels, at least when that doesn't result in too long a list. The advantage of that is that if you have a pretty good idea of the path you want to follow to reach a given article, then you can save time by skipping steps. I remember once reading something about good website design that counselled against having too deep a tree: I think the Tricki may have special reasons for needing deeper trees than your average site, but nevertheless it could be good to try to mitigate the disadvantages of this.

If the list of articles of depth at most 2 from a given article is too long, one could perhaps use hidden text, as I have done extensively on a map of the Tricki. That is, one could have "local maps".

Final point: I very much hope that if we classify articles in a nice hierarchy according to their subject matter, we will not consider our job done. I don't want to give up on the goal of classifying articles according to the problems they help you to solve. Some idea of the kinds of possibilities I have in mind can be gleaned from what I have been trying to do in I have a problem to solve in real analysis. Does anybody feel like making a start on I have a problem to solve in group theory? (It is quite a challenge to get all the levels of hidden text to work, especially if you have to debug, but it can be done.)

I agree that it is generally good to display two levels of depth rather than one if it doesn't make things too cluttered. One place that we might do this on the very top page. At the moment there is the link Different kind of Tricki articles. That page itself doesn't have too many headings (five or so at my last count), and these could easily be listed on the top level itself. I think this would help to give someone arising at the top level a more immediate sense of what's available.

One could have a layout of the following kind, for example:

[BEGIN PROPOSED LAYOUT]

Different kinds of Tricki articles

This is a very general navigation page that describes the various kinds of articles available on the Tricki, and links to various more specialized navigation pages, including:

[and then give the list of depth two links]

[END PROPOSED LAYOUT]

Any thoughts on this suggestion?

A brief follow-up. I just realized that one doesn't really get to the top-level page from the front page of the Tricki, but rather is more likely to end up the navigation page. So while my suggestions above are reasonable, they are not likely to be so important.

I think, though, that something similar might also be appropriate for the navigation page, again just so that a newcomer gets a more immediate sense of what is available. (I realize that this is only a click away, by going to the Different kinds of Tricki article link, but in the spirit of trying to mitigate the effects of a deep tree of links, it seems reasonable to have the depth two list presented there.)

What do you think?