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Paul Silver

Making websites for companies and helping advertise them

Client: p2b search engine

The p2b search engine provides an easy way to get to local information for the Brighton and Hove area of the UK. The p2b partnership is made up of eight local businesses and organisations who own a large number of websites and wanted to be able to search them all.

p2b uses a Google Search Appliance (GSA) to spider and search the websites of the project partners and enable web searching on the public information within those sites.

The GSA can serve up results through it's own website or via XML. The partners wanted to integrate the search results seemlessly in to their own sites, so it was decided to use the XML version of the results to allow this integration. There were then two ways to serve the results:

  1. Use XSL to change the XML in to HTML for displaying on the website
  2. Use a scripting language to change the XML to HTML for display

Each partner had their own web development staff, each having a different level of skills and time to work on the various websites. Very few of them knew XSL so it was decided that option 2 would give them the best results as it would allow them to change the display of the results using a language they were all ready familiar with, rather than learning a whole new language just to change one page on their website.

Due to the number of partners, it was inevitable that several different scripting languages would be in use. Fortunately, they all had one of the top mainstream languages available so I wrote the XML parsing code in:

  • ColdFusion MX - prototyping code and then a final version for partners
  • PHP v4
  • ASP v3

The code creates an XHTML Transitional search results page using CSS for layout, and I created a standard CSS file to control layout and colouring of the results based on usability research carried out by p2b.

Together the code and CSS allows the different partners to chop and change what is shown as search results as much as they want (e.g. show the relevance score or not, show different sorting options, leave out summary snippets) and also easily change the layout and colouring of the results, without having to learn a new language.

I was also asked to create the p2b search site from designs created by the p2b project organiser and his designers. The site was created in XHTML with CSS controlling layout and includes shortcut keys for accessibility.

Summary of what was done:

  • Research and prototyping of results of Google Search Appliance XML
  • XML parsing code in ColdFusion MX, PHP 4 and ASP 3
  • Downloading of XML search results from a Google Search Appliance
  • Creation of website in CSS / XHTML
  • Writing Technical Help documents for installation of code

My code written for the p2b partners is now running on sites owned by:

  • Brighton & Hove City Council
  • Brighton & Hove City Primary Care Trust
  • The Argus
  • SCIP
  • University of Brighton
  • University of Sussex
  • Virtual Brighton & Hove
  • Wired Sussex

The work was carried out between April and July, 2005.

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