January 13, 2006

Curious George: FAQ web page building I am trying to put together a Web page for my department with company FAQs. Rather then have a web page with a long list of URLs, Answers etc. I would like the user to filter by subject eg. IT, Useful numbers, Non-Technical - that kinda thing. It needs to be pure html/css/java/vbscript. No server-side asp here, but its need to have a database type back-end (Access, Excel, XML) Any monkeys out there with ideas/useful sites?. There are commercial products but I want to do it myself AND EARN BROWNIE POINTS!!!
  • Urk! I actually prefer the long list of answers in a FAQ. Maybe it's because it eliminates an extra level of indirection. I have to trust whoever setting up the faq is going to classify those questions in the right group. Plus i now have to make a choice as to what the category is. Plus if i scan a list of FAQ questions, i may hit something i need to know but didn't know i need to know.
  • http://faq.blogspot.com/
  • Your post is somewhat confusing and contradictory, but you certainly don't need to start from scratch. For starters, you must know (and need to tell us) which web server you have (Apache/IIS for example). It would also be helpful to know what other capabilities that web server has (such as PHP or ASP capabilities). Not sure what you mean when you say "No server-side asp here". Does that mean you don't have the capability or you don't want it done on the server-side? If your web server is Windows/IIS, you certainly have the capabilities. When you say it needs to have a database type back-end you are definitely talking about using server-side capabilities. You can use Access (assuming it is a Windows server) but there are performance reasons to avoid it. Most "real" applications will make use if the free MySQL database, which can be installed on any web server. Once you know what languages and databases are available to you (or can be installed) on your web server, you are ready to begin shopping for solutions. My philosophy is that there are plenty of good and free solutions already written, so why reinvent the wheel. Finding the right free solution will also make you a hero, but this is a job (not for someone who just designs web pages and uploads them to a directory but) the guy who administers the web server itself. Here is an example of what is out there (if you had or installed MySQL, wanted a PHP application, and had a Linux/Unix web server: FAQ Engine. Once you know what category to look in, you can search HotScripts under just that category (ASP, CGI, PHP, etc.)
  • If you cannot use any server-side languages, such as PHP, Perl, Ruby, or ASP, then your only other option is to use XMLHTTPRequest / AJAX to access an XML file. It is important to note, however, that your entire XML file will have to be publicly readable in order for it to work -- which means that anyone who wants to grab the full contents of your 'database' is free to do so. Alternatively, on the occam's razor side of things: why not just set up a series of pages with different FAQs and a meta-topic to redirect people to the right place?
  • Hotscripts is a great source, but I would vote for the single long list. Except you'd divide it up using Heading tags for the different section, and perhaps make each question a dt/dd pair. You could stick a search box at the top, or put all the questions at the top, with links to the full question and answer in the main text. People would then have the option of using their browser's fins function, as well as yours. Also give people a clear way to get their question answered if the FAQ doesn't contain it, and update the FAQ regularly.