Kansas Petroleum Atlas

Results & Discussion


Major DPA Paths & Pages

Navigation Style

Technology Transfer / Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix A: Selected Abstracts

Appendix B: Selected Email Feedback

Results and Discussion

Web Structures

A goal of the technical team creating the atlas was to make sure that original data and intermediate steps of the study were saved and made available to the users. Results of field studies were fed immediately into the databases. The flexibility of the Web provides access to the data that went into the study at the same time as the results.

To support these scientific goals, a design had to be created for the web site. Several models were drawn up, but the goals were very simple:

  1. Display information assembled
  2. Allow user to choose path and goals
  3. Don’t let user get lost.

Before the actual designs used in the DPA are described, some discussion of general web style is needed.

Simple Web Structure

A simple, several-page report results in a simple web "report-like" structure (Figure 3). Standard reports such as online Kansas Geological Survey Public Information Circulars fit into this category (ex. Hugoton Natural Gas Area of Kansas at http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Publications/pic5/pic5_1.html). Each page links to the next page in the sequence. The user may use a table of contents to skip to a particular area (just as in a paper book), but there is a clear progression of pages. Sometimes a page will have links to another web site, just as a paper publication will have references to other sources. Because people are familiar with reading reports, this style of web presentation is not a significant problem for most viewers.
Figure 3.—Schematic of simple report-like web structure.

Hierarchical Web Structure

Web pages such as the Kansas Geological Survey home page (http://www.kgs.ku.edu/kgs.html) can be seen as hierarchical "directory-like" structures where the user is presented with a series of choices. Just as in a library or grocery store, all of the information or items available are grouped into several topics. Users do not have trouble navigating this style of web site, which is similar to that used for organizational charts and web directories such as Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com, Lynch and Horton, 1997).
Figure 4.—Schematic of hierarchical "directory-like" web structure.

However, the manner that a set of items is structured into categories can lead to confusion. Upon reaching a web site, a user must decide under which category a particular items has been placed. What was obvious to the web designer may not be an obvious choice to a visitor. Many products do not fit well into the existing categories. For example, a multidisciplinary product such as the Kansas River Corridor study (http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Publications/KR/index.html) could be placed in both a "Geology" and "Hydrology" category. Should it also be placed under "Publications?" Is it considered useful as an "Educational" publication? If too many publications are listed in multiple categories, then the structure is not efficient in assisting users in locating items of interest.

A search program can help in these cases. Studies show that about half the people visiting a web site prefer to search right away, and half the visitors prefer to navigate the site using links (Nielsen, 1997a). However, since the answer to a particular question may not be confined to one page, it is remains important to have a strong web structure. Once the search has directed a visitor to a particular web page, the visitor must easily discern how to continue navigating through the site.

Complex Web Structure

As soon as a web site has a significant number of pages on inter-related subjects, there may be a tendency to see the site structure as a true web.
Figure 5.—Schematic of complex "web-like" web structure.
Inevitably, this is a mistake. While human consciousness might very well work in a web-like way (words in conversation leading to disparate topics, smells or sounds bringing up memories of other places and times), an average visitor can not find answers in a web structure. Except for a very small web site made up primarily of links, this structure might be though of as an anti-structure.

Atlas Structure

The DPA’s Two Major "Paths"

As the DPA got underway, there were two obvious "paths" through the digital data. The user could move geographically through several scales of data:

Play ® Basin ® County ® Field ® Well

At each geographic scale, the user would be presented with choices and answers.

a. For this county, which field would you like to see?
b. What is the structure of the Morrow in the basin?
c. For this Field, which well are you interested in?
d. For which Play is this field an analog?

As an alternative the DPA could be structured around topical areas. For the first version of the DPA the topical areas were broken into following categories:

Regional General Geology
Geophysics Reservoir Wells

For each field, basin and county, information was structured in terms of both geographic scale and topical area. These two general structural styles of information (pages based on geographical scale and pages based on topical area) result in a grid system (Figure 6). However, in practice this structure becomes rapidly unmanageable. While it would be nice to simultaneously compare the geologic maps of three or four fields (isopach or structure), it is not possible and not desirable to have links from each geology page to every other geology page. As a result, for the DPA we emphasized movement among geographic scales, and worked to maximize the visitor’s ability to move from County to Field to Well. Movement between topical areas is restricted to the selected geographic scale.

Figure 6.—Schematic of complex "grid-like" web structure for the digital petroleum atlas. Rows can be visualized as geographic scales (e.g., County, Field, Well) and columns as topical areas (e.g., Geology, Geophysics, Production)

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November 1999
URL: http://www.kgs.ku.edu/DPA/Reports/structure.html