SuttaCentral

Design the perfect sutta website User Interface (UI) ... for children?


#1

I’ve been tasked with creating an English sutta website that needs to be simple enough for children to use. Of course, children may actually be better at using websites than adults, so if it is a better frame: simple enough for monks who never use the internet to use.

Here are the considerations…

  • English translations of Pali only. No source texts in Pali.
  • One translation for each sutta (i.e. not multiple translators)
  • Translations will be relatively static
  • It will have complete translations of 6 books of the KN to start
  • It will unlikely ever be complete for the first four Nikayas, probably not more than 20%
  • 99% sure I will use Wordpress. 110% sure will not use Github :wink:

For navigation, my thought was to have a side bar similar to SC (although much, much simpler). What I’m not sure about is if the side bar should go down to the sutta level or not. Could get ugly.

The other aspect of navigation I had in mind was a tag system. I’m not sure how it would work in WP, but my idea was to have three types of tags: Topic, Names, and Similes. Each sutta would display any relevant tags at the bottom of each sutta allowing for exploration. Then I would hope to somehow have index pages to display the tags. I’m not sure how to create an index from tags, but with WP anything seems possible.

So, if anyone can share ideas with me or even just ask questions, that would be a big help. Feel free to throw at me all your complaints about how other sutta websites are organized so I can avoid those problems.

EDIT: Please note that this is not going to be a children’s website. It needs to be simple enough for children to use. And the translations will be simple enough for children to understand, but likewise simple enough for non-native English speakers to use. This thread does not need to discuss the legal implications related to working with children. I am well aware of those things and would ensure that all precautions would be followed.

Thanks!!!


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#2

I would recommend using GitHub - suttacentral/bilara-data as the source for your project. You have the option of simply downloading a zip file to your computer to be independent of Github. The advantage here is consistency and segmentation.

For the kids I would also recommend inclusion of Dhamma Doodles by Ven. @yodha .

For navigation, I believe your design relies on links. If you have need of a search engine, it would require some work, but it would be possible to adapt scv-bilara to your needs since it is designed to search bilara-data.

You can also freely include audio created by voice.suttacentral.net.

:pray:


#3

Why is this?


#4

Well, I don’t see any reason to use Github. It feels like a solution in search of a problem, honestly. The scope of the project is rather narrow and versioning is not an issue. And once the site is built, there will only be one person adding to it.

What is the problem I presented that using Github will solve?

I do realize that Wordpress has its own set of drawbacks, but I guess for me it’s the devil that I know.

No, these are going to be original translations. And to be clear, this isn’t really a translation project. As I said, 6 books from the KN are already finished. I would imagine that Suttas in the other Nikayas will be added slowly and there’s no idea to have a complete translation of the whole thing.

Yes, I thought about using photographs. But that’s a good idea.

So, sticking with the specification of the site being for children, I don’t think anything beyond the built in WP search is needed. Once kids are really into research, it would only make sense for them to switch to a complete site like Sutta Central.

It is interesting to think about what kids might search for and how they would use search. I had assumed that a tag system would be more useful for them, but I don’t know.

That does give me the idea that each sutta should probably have an introduction, or at least a place for one. Ensuring that keywords were in the introduction would help with search.

Thanks!!


#5

I should also mention that the specific children’s target audience is children who attend a Dhamma school that emphasizes EBT’s. So it’s not just kids off the street. :motorway:


#6

I am ignorant of such matters. It was just that I’ve heard WP mentioned unfavourably hereabouts, and wondered what your point of view is. :woman_shrugging:


#7

Hi Snowbird,

this is something that I’ve come across that might help. It’s got simple navigation and, although it has Pali translations, they can be toggled on and off. Download it from here.


#8

@Gillian, ah yes. I probably can’t claim to be much more than ignorant about github either.

As I understand, one of the big complaints about Wordpress is that it’s overkill for a simple article publishing website. And that is probably true. However there’s not much in the way of alternatives that are simple to use. And for this project I’m willing to take the cons of WP to get the pros of off the shelf extensibility.

If someone has a problem that git can solve, then yes for them git is a simple solution. But people who have a git-solvable problem are already people for whom using git does not present a steep learning curve. For a project like SC and SC-Voice git is a perfect solution for part of the problem. But it still requires other technologies.

So my saying that I will use Wordpress and not Github is actually not a well formed statement. I should have said that I will use Wordpress and not [Github + some other technology that would actually build the website]. Because unless each page was hand coded, if I involved git, there would still need to be something to build the pages.


#9

Yes. But if you are adept at using it already, that is a consideration. … Sorry, I didn’t mean to take up your time.


#10

Oh no, not at all. I appreciate you asking.


#11

I was about to ask this wrt to the whole project. Why not just give the kids epub files?


#12

Well, epubs are books. Websites are websites. But it’s a good question in regards to how the website would be used.

So, for example, before or after a programme the monks/teachers may tell the kids to read a specific sutta. And it could be that this sutta is added to the website in the lead up to the class. So regarding why not an epub, 1) everyone would have to re-download the epub and 2) there wouldn’t be a way to share a link to the sutta.

So I have to throw it back to you: What problem would making an epub solve? It’s hard to argue that navigation is easier in an epub. And I’m sure most children would not already have an epub reader at their fingertips. But eveyone has a web browser.

In general, this project has to use ubiquitous technology on both front and back end.


#13

It would save you time.

Email them a PDF of the sutta for next week?


#14

Well, it doesn’t save time if it doesn’t give the features that we want.
Let’s just take it as a given that I’m creating a website.


#15

Ok. Have fun! :slightly_smiling_face:


#16

Hey, this is a really interesting project. I wish you all the best, and I hope you keep posting here as to your progress.

A few thoughts.

Have you researched comparable projects in the education sphere? I don’t know anything about it, but surely there must be things around that address a bunch of UI issues.

It’d be interesting to think about the preferred style. My initial thought is it should use lots of colors, pictures, and space. But maybe that’s the wrong approach. I dunno, really, maybe for young people it’s better to avoid trying to be something, just be normal.

Perhaps you could look for inspiration a contemporary pop aesthetic. Eg, https://www.billieeilish.com/

Super simple and plain, but splashes of neon, and a single striking image.

Think in terms of a single-use, dedicated app that just does one thing. Do that thing really well. If you’re using WP, don’t include things just because WP has them. Think what you can take away, and add things back only if it’s really necessary.


#17

Oh, that gives me an idea to color code the pages based on the nikaya, e.g. MN suttas with brown scheme, DN with a green scheme. This would be a subtle way to bring awareness to the fact that suttas are found in different groups. It would also aid in recollection (“I remember that in a pink sutta…”)

I don’t think kids need colour for colour’s sake, but I think they don’t come to it with the thought that Buddhism==stark, minimalist style.

Right. I do plan on stripping out everything I can.

Now I’m starting to think that each sutta should be setup as structured data, for example

  • Sutta text
  • Featured image
  • Topic tags
  • Names tags
  • Simile tags
  • embedded audio player (we have recordings of lots of the texts)
  • introduction
  • questions for reflection
  • Link to our Sinhala translation (Our target is English speaking Sinhala kids)
  • Link to sutta central
  • Link to printed book (Many of our translations have been printed)

Some of these are built into wordpress. But having the data structured would mean that people would basically be filling out a form to create a page.

I guess the big UI question I have is should there be a menu that people have to click to open sub menu items in or should there be pages that you have to navigate through to drill down to the sutta you want. Not sure if that makes sense. I guess I’m assuming that a kid would be looking up a specific sutta. But maybe that’s not how kids would be using the site.


#18

That makes sense.

Yeah, not easy to say. Given that SC relies heavily on a sidebar, maybe try something different, see how it goes?


#19

OK, now you have me thinking about things, specifically the difference between a library and a classroom. Sites like SuttaCentral are basically a library. You walk in and all the information is equal. But in the SuttaCentral library, one key thing is missing. The cool librarian! The person who asks “What would you like to learn today and can I help you find that” The person that knows where to show you the books about how cars work but can also show you the biographies of people important in the history of cars.

With a classroom, you walk in and the (perfect) teacher says, “This is what you need to learn today and I’m going to help you do that.” And they may take you to the library too, but they give a more structured form to the learning.


#20

Another challenge for you is that needs/capabilities of children change as they grow. You could target a particular age group or find an appropriate already-developed curriculum to relate to across different levels. But I expect you have thought about this already.