Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Art of Indexing

Volant enters it final stage of (de)composition. I am currently working it over developing the index. I *could* just generate one, but indices really need intelligence and design. You need to prioritize what someone will be looking for, and ignore what the generated link actually says.

For example - I want to link the (made up) phrase "Creating  Surface Native Characters in Volant" into the index. By default it would be listed under C for 'creating', but no one is going to be searching for 'creating'. What they more likely will be looking for is 'chargen' or 'characters' or 'natives, surface'. I would then create an index link which would say something like "Chargen, surface native" and/or "Characters, surface native" and/or "Native, surface, creation of characters" - I say "and/or"  because it would be wise to place an obscure but likely-to-be-searched-for rule under more than one pertinent topic.

Indices take hard work, time, and understanding of the way people are likely to use the book to be properly functional. All my pdf indices are hyperlinked, as are my Tables of Contents, though pdfs are by default searchable anyway. People who prefer looking through indices will use the index, and those who prefer web-style searching will use the built-in Find function. However I also sell print books. A print version of a pdf cannot be hyperlinked, nor is there a Find function. That leaves the old fashioned Index with page references the only way to find anything.

Of course, there is a side benefit to creating a proper index. The index phrase "Chargen, surface native" would be right beside all other character generation information, and searching for one will uncover them all, even if you aren't looking for it, and that is always handy for developing ideas. "Hey! I forgot all about the people who live on the surface! That would be cool to explore!"

So I am manually combing through the book, looking for useful trigger phrases, and creating best-use index phrasing to optimize searching, both focused and serendipitous. I'm no S. John Ross on index creating - read Rembrandt or Shakespeare or Lennon or whatever great artist suits your fancy - but I do try. This will take a few days...


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