Material Design spec for SC Next

Here I will develop a MD spec for SC, examining each aspect of SC and describing how best it may be expressed in the MD idiom.

When building the app, we should use the simplest default MD approach wherever possible. We should take care to study and understand the MD approach, and implement it carefully. All aspects, such as spacing, metrics, shadows, animation, and so on, play their part. Reading the spec is an object lesson in a careful, well-considered approach to design.

The essential reference is:


So far we have proceeded under the understanding that we would have distinct views for the i18n and the expert views. But I now think this is unnecessary, especially since we are no longer changing the URLs. Rather, we can choose a set of standard defaults, and allow the user to toggle other preferences.

This would include:

  • Show/hide:
  • nav drawer (on by default on wide screens, off on text pages)
  • Text info (off by default)
  • Select a language. This would set the UI for that language, and show the titles, descriptions, and translations in that language. If unclicked:
  • UI and descriptions in English
  • Titles in root language
  • Translations selected via dropdown (as currently).



The navigation in SC is essentially hierarchical. The hierarchy is to a certain extent determined, since it represents the traditional way of organizing texts, especially in Pali. However this is complicated by the fact that we include multiple text sources, which are not part of a systematic hierarchy. Moreover, many of these text sources themselves do not have a coherent inner hierarchy. This is because, like say SA 1, the hierarchy is muddled in the Chinese edition, or because, like most of the Sanskrit texts, we merely have isolated texts, not whole collections. Thus we must extend the traditional hierarchy.

One problem we have to solve is to ensure the visibility of the non-Pali texts. In the two-dimensional old menu, you can see the Chinese and other texts. Even if you never click on them, you know they are there, and can recognize that they have similar names to the Pali. How might we avoid losing this in a one-dimensional nav drawer?

So here’s a thought. What say we dispense with language as a category for navigation? After all, it’s mostly relevant for experts who read the texts in the original languages. Focusing on the i18n aspect for now, it is of secondary interest to a user what the source language of a translation happened to be. After all, we might have exactly the same text translated from different sources. It’s also intimidating: if you don’t know Chinese, why would you click a link that says “Chinese”? So let’s organize the texts semantically, with language info de-emphasized.

In terms of the overall navigation hierarchy, there are many elements, such as nikaya, pannasa, nipata, samyutta, vagga, and so on. Each of these is simple, and constitutes a potential node in the navigation.

The suttaplex

At the bottom of this tree is a “sutta”. (Note that for the purposes of this document, I use “sutta” to refer to any text, including suttas, Vinaya, division-length texts, etc.). A sutta as represented on SC is irreducibly complex; in other words, it is a cluster of associated data. Typically, the data associated with a sutta consists of:

  • original text
  • multiple translations
  • parallels data
  • ID
  • description
  • reference info, i.e. vol/page, etc.

Just because I love jargon, I’m going to refer to this as a “suttaplex”. Nifty, right? Note that the “suttaplex” is all the info for one sutta, a “suttaplex list” is a list of suttaplexes.

The critical thing to remember is this:

  • Everything in the hierarchy above the suttaplex is simple, whereas a suttaplex is complex.

This understanding shapes the overall direction of the navigation and structure of the app.

We end up with three kinds of thing. These correspond to MD components thus:

  1. Hierarchy = Nav drawer
  2. List of suttaplexes = List
  3. Text pages

We can conceptualize this as three columns:

| Nav Drawer | Suttaplex list | Text       |
| ----       | ----           | ----       |
| ----       | ----           | ----       |
| ----       | ----           | ----       |

The nav drawer includes the hierarchy down as far as the vagga. The suttaplex list includes the list of suttaplexes. This replaces the “(sub)division” and “details” views in the old site. The text includes the text and/or translation.

Let’s look at each of these elements individually, then consider how they work together.

Nav Drawer

In MD the main navigation in a hierarchical site—as per the MD spec site itself—is handled in the sidebar, i.e. nav drawer.

  • A nav drawer is a limited form of list, in that it only allows an item, and optionally an icon and expander. Thus it is not suitable for the suttaplexes.
  • The nav drawer can be either extended or retracted by default, according to what is appropriate. But note that on mobile, it must be retracted by default.

Deep nesting

Typically MD has two levels in the nav drawer. The level is indicated with an indent. This is problematic for us, as we have many nesting levels, and long titles. We have have to see whether indenting will work in practice for us.

Deep nesting is discussed in the MD specs here:

If you have a deep navigational hierarchy, you may expand that hierarchy within the navigation drawer. Upon selecting a level, the level of navigation below is revealed. Selecting a collapsed section expands that level in-line, hiding all levels outside of it.

The essential functionality of the nav drawer is that usually each item must contain two clickable fields:

  1. To select corresponding list of suttaplexes, click the item text
  2. To expand the list, click an expander icon (this does not apply to the bottom-most level)

Here is a mockup of the nav drawer.

  • Note that the hierarchical level is indicated by the expanders. While this might not be as obvious or intuitive as indents, the information is there.

Suttaplex list

Suttaplex lists include everything that was formerly found in Tabular pages, including division, subdivision, and details. I.e. everything apart from the texts, home, search, and static pages.

:point_right: Our suttaplex list is not identical with any of the stock MD components. It is similar to a “list”, in the the items are arranged in a fixed vertical order. But they have richer content than a list, and in that respect are similar to a “card”.

Here is a mockup of a suttaplex list.

  • Title in Translated language is treated as the “title” of a card, in the large size (24px)
  • The next line is like the “subtitle” of a card, greyed and smaller (14px). This contains “nerdy details”, eg ID, original language title, and volume/page info.
    • If there is no translated title, it defaults to the original language.
    • If there is no title, there is just the ID
  • Descriptions, where present, are secondary text. They should generally take up no more than two lines.
  • The expander on the right shows the parallels for that sutta. (see below).
  • Perhaps we could use a MD badge on the expander to indicate the number of parallels. Low priority.
  • Select translations using MD flat buttons
  • Translator’s names are shown for the selected language.
  • In addition, show a dropdown menu with all translations to the right of the translator’s names. This will serve as fallback where there are no translations in that language. This is similar to the old site, except we should show the translator’s names. (Due to the complexity of the data, these are only called on demand.) Eg:
    • Sujato en
    • Bodhi en
    • Keci fr
  • In DN and MN (and maybe other places), we can add a “difficulty” icon in the form of a sapling, potted plant, and tree. This guides a new reader. Title attributes explain the meaning. Low priority.

Parallels & references AKA details

We don’t need to go to a new page to display details. Rather, the data is collapsed by default, to allow scanning of the suttaplex list, and the parallels for a specific suttaplex are opened via the expander.

There are several ways of doing this in MD.

The slickest way is to use what MD calls “parent to child” transition:

The surface that the user touches should lift up and expand into place from its origin. This expansion and motion highlights movement away from the parent towards a destination (a child element) in a natural movement using the material motion curve.

This would be the same as opening an email in Inbox.

Here is a Polymer element for this:

However, this approach only works in one-column designs, where there is a margin for the child element to expand into. If this is not appropriate, we can use a simpler expandable element, which is called an “expansion panel”:

Here are some Polymer examples:

Here is a mockup, showing the parent-to-child transition. The expansion panel would look similar, except the transformations are less drastic: it doesn’t move “towards” you, so there is no increase in size or shadow depth. Also it remains connected with the previous and subsequent items.

  • I have not found any of the stock MD design patterns that closely mimics our “parallels”.
  • Spacing is reduced, especially padding above the action row.
  • There could be down arrow in each parallel that, as with the unexpanded version, takes you to the Suttaplex for that sutta. Like the expander, it lives in the action row. However, rather than expanding in situ, it opens the relevant URL (see below, “Suttaplex URL”). So we use a different arrow to indicate a different kind of motion. Low priority. In fact, so low I have removed it for now.
  • The up indicator closes the details view.
  • Show links for original texts as well as translations here. The logic is that someone interested in the parallels is more likely to be interested in the original texts.
  • At the top right of the opened details view there is a small “vertical menu” icon. Let us refer to this menu as the “Suttaplex menu”. This reveals any minor options, including:
    • Permalink to Suttaplex URL: this is a simple URL with just the ID, as in the old “details” view. It opens to a page with just the relevant suttaplex, expanded by default. In this view, the position in the hierarchy is indicated via the nav drawer, which is opened and highlighted in the relevant vagga.
    • “Cite” button—same as current “cite” function for details. Low priority.
    • “Copy table”—copy the parallels data that suttaplex as a plain HTML table, omitting translations, etc. Low priority.
  • Use MD subheading size, i.e. 16px, for titles in expanded view. Same for the ID in the left column.
  • Note that descriptions should be shown for the root text alone, not the parallels. This is because in the majority of cases the parallels are basically the same (duh!).
Some remarks on copy table

Regarding “Copy Table”, we have previously discussed whether to use HTML tables for this data. My main concern is that the data be stable and reusable. To show what I mean, here is a straight copy of the table data into a word processor. I did it the crudest way possible, just highlighting the table and pasting straight into LibreOffice:

As you can see, it’s not too bad. The data and parallel relations are all preserved.

On the other hand, perhaps using tables will not be ideal from a Polymer point of view: I don’t know.

Anyway, what I am thinking is that from the menu, just as we now provide a “Cite” button that allows the data to be reused and pasted as text, how about we have a “copy table” button? This would supply a strictly bare HTML table, with no buttons, links, classes, or whatever, just the raw data. Then it can be used on other sites, posted into a blog, thrown into a Word doc, a powerpoint, or whatever. (Could we maybe have a similar function on Text pages for “Copy Text”? That would copy just the vanilla HTML, no variants, classes, metadata, etc.)

Perhaps this will be useful. - Discuss & share web components

Icons for indicating relations

We use MD icons to indicate various relations between the parallels. So far as possible, these should indicate the kind of relation visually, as well as being harmonious with the intended meaning of these icons

  • image Swap horizontal: full parallel. This indicates identity, the two items can be “swapped”.
  • image Compare: resembling parallel. The relation is not as close as identity, but they are “comparable”.
  • image Quote: mentions. One text is “quoted” in another.
  • image Cached: retelling. A story or event is “backed up in cache” or “recycled” by being retold in another place.

Both mentions and retellings are reversable, as they indicate a directional relationship. To avoid overburdening the icons with meaning, keep the icons simple and further define the relation as necessary in the title attribute, to display on hover. Note that in a retelling it is sometimes possible to indicate a direction (“this event is retold in …”) but often this is not the case, so we use a bidirectional icon.

Text pages

The overall typography of the text pages can remain as is. See below for more on the typography

We don’t need to display the hierarchy in supertitles as currently, as they merely represent the same hierarchy that is present in the nav drawer. Instead, display the root language title above the translated title.

In addition, we can remove the ID numbers from Sutta Titles, thus keeping it cleaner. The Sutta ID, Title, and Translator can be displayed in the Toolbar.

In some cases there is no title. If the title is empty, use the ID instead.

We can implement prev/next links at the foot of the page, as used on the MD spec site. Low priority.

Here is a standard text view.

  • Translator is separated with em-dash, and italicized (like a signature). Obviously this doesn’t apply to root texts.
  • Heading includes original language and translated title.
    • There is quite a lot of variability here, so we need to test this.
  • Use gold for the header: it is a reward!
  • Maybe we can add an italics flourish to little words in titles: of, and, a, to … Low priority.

Text & Translation

Using the text view selector we can see text and translation line by line:

Or in columns. Widen the container for wide screens.

Note that in both these, the root text is in sans. This echoes the heading, where the root title is sans, the main title serif.

These can be produced with a few lines of CSS.

/* line by line view*/ .root-text, .translated-text { display: block; } .root-text { margin-top: 1.4em; } .translated-text { font-family: "Skolar PE"; } */ column view */ .root-text, .translated-text { display: table-cell; padding-top: 1.4em; width: 20em; } .root-text { padding-right: 0.7em; } .translated-text { padding-left: 0.7em; font-family: "Skolar PE" } .text-node { display: table-row; } */ <span class="text-node"><span-class="root-text">“Ānāpānassati,-bhikkhave,-bhāvitā-bahulīkatā-mahapphalā-hoti-mahānisaṃsā.</span>----<span-class="translated-text">“Mendicants, when mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated it’s very fruitful and beneficial.</span></span>

Another option, not shown, would be to show the root text as a tooltip.

Textual information

Currently the vol/page info is optionally displayed in the right margin. I cannot find any MD patterns that fit this. Unless anyone has a better idea, keep as is.

Variant readings, etc., are displayed with color variation. Again, keep as is.

Texts with sections

Quite a few longer texts are subdivided into sections. Show these in the nav drawer.


An alternative pattern, found commonly on MD sites, is to include the inner navigation on the text page itself as a ToC. But this won’t work for us. Either the ToC is inline with the main content (as on the main MD spec site), which doesn’t work when there are many sections, as we sometimes have; or it is in a second column, which then has to be adjusted for mobiles, either put inline, or in the nav drawer.

The section view will display a numbered list of sections, which replaces the standard nav hierarchy. To return to the standard nav hierarchy, we use what MD rather confusingly calls the “up button” (which is in fact an arrow pointing left.)

Since these sections are numbered, there is no need to further indicate the hierarchy level.

Navigation flow

So now we have looked at the three essential elements of the site content, let’s consider how they fit together.

Functionally, this would work thus. First you navigate to the appropriate level of the hierarchy in the nav drawer. You click on a division, pannasa, nipata, samyutta, or vagga, etc., and the relevant suttaplex list is called up. You can then scroll to the relevant sutta, view the parallels if you like, or select the text.

How should this be implemented?


The Suttaplex list should be on its own page. This is essential in order to make full use of the screen width. This has the disadvantage that you cannot navigate directly from sutta to sutta, but have to go to an intermediate sutta list page. Having said which, this difference is probably more theoretical than practical.

Wider screens

For wider screens, MD allows, for desktop only, a “cascading nav drawer”. Clicking on an item in the nav drawer opens a second panel, expanding the nav drawer horizontally. On a wide screen, this could be displayed at the same z-index as the nav drawer and the text, i.e. they all literally sit side by side as three columns. I don’t think a cascading nav drawer as such is quite right, since what is expanded is a complex list, not a set list of items. Still, it is not too dissimilar.

Here’s a mockup of that.

In somewhat narrower screens, such as tablets, the nav drawer and sutta list might be an overlay on the text.

However, this view would not work at all on mobile. So to keep development simple we should probably begin by developing for mobile, using a separate page for the sutta list view. At least we can be sure that this will work anywhere. We might consider implementing it as a cascading view later, if it seems useful.

Tool bar

The top header AKA Title bar AKA “Tool bar”.

The Toolbar keeps similar behavior to the current design. I.e. it is narrow, retracts on scroll-down, and reappears on scroll-up. This is the default behavior of the Polymer app layout:

The essential elements are, from left to right:

  1. Hamburger for nav drawer
  2. Adaptable title
  3. Search
  4. Forum
  5. Tools/settings
  6. Vertical menu

  ≡  Middle Discourses                                🔍  🗪  ⚙ ⋮

Tools and chat are context dependent.


Toolbar background color should change according to context. Rather than the pastel yellow we use currently, we should use a bold color as usual for MD. We can define distinct colors for:

  1. Home page
  2. Suttaplex lists
  3. Text pages
  4. Search results
  5. Static pages

Let me discuss each item in turn.

≡ Main site navigation

Opens the nav drawer.

This one is cute:

Adaptable title

MD typically eschews the traditional “Home” icon. Instead, “Home” appears at the top when the nav drawer is opened. This is seen both in Inbox and the MD specs site.

Meanwhile, the Toolbar displays a context-dependent title.

  • On suttaplex lists, this would replace the “caption” on the division pages of the old site.
  • On text pages, we can have the Sutta title and translator.
  • On search pages, the search term (?)

:mag: Search

For apps where search is not the main purpose, such as SC, MD specs say display just the icon by default, and expands on click.

:point_right: Use expandable search

There are a number of different styles of search fields in MD apps. I dislike extreme search fields, where clicking on the icon radically changes the view (like, say, Better to modestly expand from the current position, as for example,

According to the spec, search results should be presented as cards. Use similar typography as the Lists in the division view. The difference is that, whereas a list is of sequential items, and hence flows without break, search results present unrelated items, so they are separated, i.e. each one is a “card”. Note: I’m not really convinced about this. Google itself usually uses lists for search results, and cards seem a bit too much.

:point_right: Use MD Tabs for the various search options.

:point_right: Use a distinct header color. Green means “Go!”

🗪 Forum

Connection with Discourse is similar to use of social media widgets, etc. Display this everywhere, and add badges indicating the number of conversations where relevant.

On click, it should open a dropdown menu listing the conversations, as in the current design. If there are no conversations, have a dialogue saying what Discourse is, and inviting them to join.

:point_right: Use MD list

:gear: Tools

:point_right: Use MD dialogue

Dialogs inform users about a specific task and may contain critical information, require decisions, or involve multiple tasks.

Dialogues can include a greater variety and complexity of interactions as opposed to Menus.

The Tools dialogue would be context specific, and would only appear on Text pages. By appearing only then, it calls attention to itself.

It would include:

  • image Textual Information
  • :eye: Lookup dictionary
  • image Script switcher
  • Text & Translation view selector (not yet implemented)
  • ⇄ Parallels and References
  • image Metadata

Generally speaking, when choosing from a set of options, it is best to use a dropdown menu. This is especially the case if there are many options, and in cases where the number of options can vary or grow over time.

Here is a discussion of each element.

Textual Information

:point_right: Toggle with a switch

Lookup Dictionary

Lookup Dictionary occurs on Pali and Chinese pages only.

:point_right: Use a dropdown

Rather than having separate “select” and “activate”, as currently, include “none” as one of the options.


Script Switcher

The script switcher allows to select one from a group. It occurs on Pali texts only.

:point_right: Use a dropdown.

Text/Translation view selector

The Text/Translation view selector allows the user to compare the translation with the original text in a variety of ways. Each of this has its own use case.

  • image Columns are good on a wide screen.
  • image Line by line is for narrow screens.
  • image Popup is good for occasional checking if using a mouse.

:point_right: Use a radio button group.

Parallels and References

:point_right: Open “suttaplex URL” in new tab.


Metadata displays the information as in the current metadata tab.

:point_right: Toggle view with an expander.

In addition to the info currently available, extract data from github, such as contributors, last modified, etc.

⋮ Toolbar Menu

Menus in MD display a list of choices, with one choice per line. They are not used for primary navigation. Represent with a three vertical dot icon (AKA vertical ellipsis) at the far right of the Toolbar.

Whereas the Tools is for the text pages only, the Toolbar Menu applies site-wide. Here we include:

  • image Change site language
  • :pray: Donations
  • image Downloads
  • :busts_in_silhouette:Acknowledgements
  • Methodology
  • Abbreviations (include “Numbering”)
  • Bibliography
  • Free, Open, Safe
  • image About SuttaCentral

Change site language

This switches the UI, etc., i.e. it applies the i18n.

:point_right: Use a dropdown menu. Also see:

No Help

Help = :poop:

Among the many, many disadvantages of help pages:

  • Who uses them?
    • When was the last time you ever used a Help page on a website? Was it in a year that started with a “2”?
    • According to Google Analytics, the current Help page accounts for 0.01% of our page views, with a bounce rate of 100%.
  • Hard to update
  • Each time the site changes we have to check it. Our current Help hasn’t been updated for years, and I am sure it has lots and lots of wrong things. Who cares? Not me!
  • It’s almost impossible to anticipate answers to specific problems with a general solution.
    • Someone goes on to the site who knows nothing about computers. Like, literally, say a Burmese monk who has just got their first Android phone and has never used the internet before. “Click” on a “link” or “use search” or “open sidebar” are just meaningless to them.
    • Someone else comes on who wants to know how to extract JSON data via our REST API.

Let Help die already. Use Discourse instead.


:point_right: Use a Stripe form:

Downloads, Acknowledgements, Methodology, Abbreviations, Bibliography, About

These all lead to static pages. We can review them, but otherwise they stay much the same.

Free, Open, Safe

Here we can include:

  • Copyright policy
  • open source policy, link to Github
  • security, privacy policy

This page is expanded from the current Copyright page, and gives an overall view of the ethics and legalisms of our site. If we call it “copyright”, it sounds like we are making copyright claims, rather than relinquishing them, so let’s call it the opposite.

We can explain the copyright situation as currently. In addition, promote the open source nature of our work, encourage people to fork the repo, etc. And we can make an assurance that there is no advertising, tracking, etc. on the site.

Home Page

On the Home page, use an extended Toolbar, which contracts on scroll down, as, say here:

We could include various elements, but for now I have included a “Quote” card and a brief Introduction. Other possibilities might include:

  • Index
  • Video intro/explainer
  • What’s new
  • Info about books, or other SC things
  • display latest discussions from discourse

Screenshots of the Home page are included in the section on Navigation. Here is a discussion of the elements.

Home box

The top of the nav drawer has a box with the site title and icon. It is styled similarly to the current SC header, but with a brighter yellow.

Nav list

Pretty much according to MD spec, with adjustments as discussed under navigation.

Nav footer

MD suggests using the bottom of the footer for basic functional links, such as typically go in a page footer. Here we have just one link, which leads to the About page. Note: I have changed my thinking on this, so the mockups are out of date. But I think we should just put this stuff all in the Toolbar menu., q.v.


We use tooltips for various things:

  • variant readings
  • dictionary lookup
  • notes in tabular pages
  • extra bibliographical info in tabular pages

The role of tooltips is fairly minor in MD, and they are not supposed to use styled text. Oh, well, let’s be rebels.

We can use MD tooltips in the variants and dictionary lookup, there seems no other way of doing this.

As for the use in tabular pages, we can probably improve this.

For the extra bibliographic detail, this applies to vol/page info, so only shows when that is selected. We recently implemented a … to indicate that the text can be expanded. Why not, rather than a tooltip, use “show details on click”, something like:

Vaidya 1958a: 260–263; Speyer 1970b: 197–206

VAIDYA, P. L. 1958a. Avadāna-śataka (Buddhist Sanskrit Texts No. 19). Darbhanga: Mithila Institute. / SPEYER, J. S. 1970ab (1906). Avadānaśataka: A Century of Edifying Tales Belonging to the Hīnayāna, vols 1 & 2 (Bibliotheca Buddhica III). Osnabrück: Biblio Verlag.

As far as the notes go, in fact they mostly include info for specifying the exact parallels. In other words, they belong in our parallels data. We should check this, add any needed data to the parallels, and see if we can eliminate this category altogether.


Typography is one area where I don’t like MD all that much. There is too much space around headers and the like; the default font size is too small; and the line height too large. Anyway, we can use their proportions for UI, but as far as the text goes, we keep what we have, more or less. Obviously we will make sure they harmonize.

  • While MD guidelines say to use 13sp as the base body size for Desktop, this is too small. Use the Device size of 14sp. (Currently we use system default, which is usually 16px.)

  • If using MD body text specs, choose the maximum font size with the minimum line-height, usually 14sp with 20sp line-height.

We should stick with Skolar rather than Roboto; both SC and MD use Noto as fallback. However, we should use the sans pretty much everywhere except for the text pages, where we use serif. Note that when we first built SC, the sans was not available.

MD has a rather eccentric use of font weights. Normally you’d have 400 (regular) and 800 (bold). A semi would be 600. But they use a 500 weight (Medium). This gives a subtle shift in certain cases. We can do this with Skolar if we like, though not with Noto where that is used. Probably it is not necessary.

Skolar serif is a little heavier than the sans, so it can be used to provide a subtle emphasis, similar to the Medium weight. However, the main use of the serif is to indicate the text, as opposed to the UI, data, etc.

In flat buttons, use all caps bold.

We should take care to implement the i18n guidelines.

Data and Intentionality

Data should be prefetched thoughtfully. We should not hit the user with large and unexpected downloads, however we can prefetch certain data when it:

  • is not too much
  • will help the user

The data for the nav drawer can be prefetched when arriving at the Home page, or on any other page.

  • Load all, or just the suttas?

When opening a division view, should we;

  • Load at the time?
  • Prefetch the descriptions, etc?
  • When do we fetch the parallels data?

Ideally we would prefetch all the data usable in the Tabular pages, leaving out only the text pages and static pages. But we have to see whether that is feasible.

Generally speaking, texts should not be prefetched. The data is too great, and the predictability too low, for this to be useful. But for full offline use, we give the user the choice to download all texts in languages of their choice. The dialogue for this should be:

  • Download texts to use offline →
  • Interface English 🞃
  • Texts English 🞃 (Approximately 100 MB)
  • Once selected, give option for other languages.
  • Include original texts? Y/N (Approximately 210 MB)
  • Time
    • Download now :ballot_box_with_check:
    • Download when connected to wi-fi :ballot_box_with_check:


Use MD colors, with Amber 500 as the prime color.

As a background, when designing the original site, I chose to use the basic color a shade of gold or yellow. Gold is the definitive Buddhist color. It is heavily emphasized in the Suttas, as the color of the Buddha’s skin, as well as countless similes. In Buddhist traditions, gold is used to represent the glory and value of the Dhamma. Further, as the color of the rising sun, it represents awakening and higher consciousness.


Little known piece of history. When I first built the site, I wanted to use a vivid gold. However, the World Tipitaka site, which hosted our Pali texts at the time, also used this color. I didn’t want to make it look like we were imitating them, so went with a softer pastel.

In contrast with the bright and vivid colors and decoration used in traditional Buddhism, most modern Buddhist design is plain and drab. While we obviously don’t want to make the site look busy, unexpected and bold use of color engages interest and delight.

The color of the headers indicates a journey. The Home page has the primary color, amber/gold. This is reflected in the nav drawer, which echoes the same color. Tabular and search results pages use different colors—red and green, respectively—and when arriving at the Text pages, the primary color appears again: the journey is complete.

Use Cyan for the accent color.


We should find an experienced designer to create a main site icon according to the MD guidelines.

Consider using the Brahmi lotus character as the basis for the main site icon. It is more elegant and distinctive than the wheel, and links with the specific Buddhist innovation of written texts.

For the general site usage, we should use MD icons where possible.

Here I will maintain a list of the specific icons, with the MD names and SC usage. Most of these are found above. If they clash, these are correct.


image Menu — main site menu
image Clear — clear search
imageForum — link to discourse
image More vert — minor menus
image Settings — Tools and settings for text pages

Toolbar minor menu

image Language — select site language
:pray: Pray — donations. Not found in MD icons.
image File download — downloads
image People — acknowledgments

Settings dialogue

image Info outline — Metadata
image Visibility — Textual Information
image Swap horiz — Parallels and References
image Comment — view dictionary lookup

Text and translation

image Reorder — line by line
image View Column — columns
image Comment — popup


image Expand more — open expanders
image Expand less — close expanders
image Arrow down — from Details view, go to Details for another sutta
image Arrow back — From text with sections, go back to main nav tree
image Help
image Close — close dialogues, etc.



image Swap horiz — full parallel.
image Compare — resembling
image Format quote — mention
image Cached — retelling

Details minor menu

image Content copy — copy table to clipboard
image Share — copy link to specific Details
image Format quote — cite

Text pages

image Book — view text page
image Share — copy link to segment

Not all of these are ideal, however we should just use the MD ones for convenience to start with and can modify later if needed.

Regarding Cite and Mention, the “format quote” icon is not really semantic. Sometimes this kind of icon is used:


Random fun stuff

Check this out:

It’s not entirely functional, but it’s a cool idea. It lets you visualize the relations between things. Maybe we could implement something like this as a fun way to visualize the texts? But it belongs on its own page, not in the nav drawer.


Looking forward to it already!

So I think I’m mostly done with this for now. Tagging @blake and @vimala in. Can you please check through this when you get the chance, and let me know any comments, suggestions, etc? I’d like to have a hangout in the next few days and discuss it.

Obviously everything is still fluid, but I am pretty happy overall. At least this gives us something to aim for.

Very nice. I skimmed over it and I approve. I love the look of the Header and the Sidebar.

Just a couple of things I noticed with the division view:

While it can be loathsome I think it might be better to just pick a localization for the user based on geolocation, headers and such so there is only the localized view (when a localization has been “automatically imposed” it’d be nice to bring up an easy language change dialog). This would simplify the view as there would only be the localized view and no alternative view.

One thing to consider would be to have a toggleable option to show extra/all translation languages (probably as another column).

I think we might want to show vaggas and other superstructure, mainly so larger chunks can be put on screen, this is handy for page search, visual scanning and such. On many sites which use a MD style navigation sidebar it is common to have several sections on a page and the sidebar is used both to navigate internally within the page as well as to completely different pages. Admittedly this is one of those things where the mobile-friendly behaviour is to slice stuff up as much as possible, while the desktop-appreciated behaviour is to be able to load more content at once.

Well, thank you!

Geolocation is too loathsome. If it must be localized, then better to give the user a splash screen at the start and force them to choose. Anyway, we can develop for the localized view, with English as default.

To be clear, the idea was that what I meant by this was that we wouldn’t need to write “vagga” and so on when viewing the relevant tabular view. The view itself could contain, in principle, any level of section—vagga, pannasa, a whole nikaya.

The only thing you couldn’t scan and search would be the “details”, which of course, you can’t anyway on the current site.

Not sure if I can be done that quick. Sorry.

no worries, let’s leave it till next week. I’m going to Penang on Wednesday anyway.

they still can have such, housing localized versions of a sutta, can’t they?

No need, with every level you click on text, it is a link to show that. The only purpose of an expander is to reveal another level of the navigation hierarchy, not to display the thing.

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@sujato - could you send me the original files that the png’s are made of so I can have a look at he underlying css and markup (or did you not make them in html?)

On a separate note, it might be good if we find some good way to work together on this and I was thinking of creating a git-repository that you can also download. Then you can make changes to the css to see how things look. But you would need to install a few things to run it like python, cherrypy, polymer.

Have you all thought about using Slack or Discord? Just a thought. :sunglasses:

I did make them in HTML, and here are the files. I only did them in HTML because I find it easier for this kind of thing. But it is all extremely sloppy, not responsive at all, and should not be followed! They are bad! Yucky!

I did not follow the MD specs properly as regarding spacing, colors, z-index, and so on, it is all just a poor imitation. And it only works properly at one screen width, i.e. half my screen. (26.2 KB)

As for me checking things, I’m not sure what the best approach is. Would it be possible for you to run it as a local webserver and give me access to it? Then I can play with the CSS in my own browser.

If, however, you really think its best for me to run it locally, you’ll need to give me a very clear and detailed set of instructions as to how to set everything up.

No, we haven’t. We normally use hangouts for live chats. Is there any special advantage these have?

Yes. For one, you’ll have a record of all the conversations. You can organize chats into channels, share documents, integrate with apps, do video and audio conferencing… I’m a big fan.

Yes, it seems these things are really popular, obviously there is a reason. Most of the things you mention we either do already, or they’re not important for us. Still, maybe we’ll try it out.

In the meantime, I will continue with my cat video.


This is a question for @Blake. I take it you mean something like our staging server.
What I am making right now is sort of like an interactive mockup, but one that can be used later. So I’m not working on a SC-branch. But I’m struggling with the CSS a little bit. It should be pretty easy, but some of the default settings of an element are difficult to override. The following video describes the basic idea of it. But in practice I find that the functions I need are not always there. For instance, changing the position of a dropdown box. It’s a learning curve no doubt. But considering that I have a bad eye for design, a little help from you might be very useful.

And I’m afraid that you will have everything within responsive boxes that do something in the background that you might not know exactly. I know you did not like that idea and wanted to do everything with just CSS, but I’m afraid that is not how Polymer works.

Never mind, my remarks that you’re referring to were about what I wanted to work with based on my own very limited understanding of CSS and HTML, and none at all of JS. Don’t worry about that, just do it the Polymer way!

I think this would be the best way. We’re going to have to set it up on a server eventually, so why not do that now?

And thanks for the talk!

I’ve uploaded what I have sofar to github. Basically this is just a shell and 4 static pages (with the wrong text still). I’ve mainly concentrated on getting menus etc. working and to get routing working properly. It is proving a bit of a learning curve with loads of new methods and ways of doing things so it is going slow but learning every day.


Fantastic! It’s starting to come together. :slight_smile:

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The current structure is like this (but of course it’s a work in process and all can still change - the below is what I found is the easiest system given the Polymer structure):

But I have a few questions:

  1. @Blake: I’m currently using a lazy router to load pages. I’m not sure if that is the best way of going about it. Can you comment?
  2. @Blake: Do I understand it correctly that the backend will output a json file with the data I need to populate the nav-drawer? If so, can you give me a mockup of such a json file so I can work with that?
  3. @Sujato: in your mockup you have the “About SC” at the bottom of the nav-bar. But would that not better fit under the “more-vert” in the top right corner of the toolbar together with other static pages?
  4. @Sujato: do I understand it correctly that when you open a (sub)division in the nav-bar, 2 things have to happen: 1. the nav-bar opens up to show all the suttas (or subdivision) AND 2. the viewport changes to a division-page. So you then have the suttas listed in both the nav-bar and the division-page.

The most problems I encounter is with not being able to access css or js in the Polymer elements. I guess this is still a learning curve and one I hope @Sujato can help with. With the js it is a bit more difficult. For instance with the menu the only thing to turn off the auto-focus on the first available element is to insert a blank div with the same class name just before. So that is a bit of a hack and not very elegant. I could not find any other solutions on the internet.