SuttaCentral

Suggestion for Menu of SC

I’ve found this an obstacle to easy navigation, since I first used the site. It is in the menu, when one clicks on a NIkkaya, the next drop down menu is (what I presume) to be books within the Nikkaya. This is where I get completely lost, and the next level is even more confusing, with the pali names of the sub-sections. Basically I end up just going through one after the other, until the right number is found. I don’t know about anyone else, but this is pretty off-putting :slight_smile:

I don’t know about anyone else, but unless one has foramlly studied Pali and the Nikkayas, these Section headings are meaningless and daunting. I’d find it more helpful, just to omit them and go straight to a numerical list.

:slight_smile:

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I concur. A suggestion. When you click Sutta, for example instead of having this show up

You take the user to this area but showing all of the Vaggas.

So now from this point the user can navigate the vaggas and click the drop down arrow to see the contents of the vaggas. Or if you click the vagga name it takes you to just that section.

:thinking: But one would need to know what a Vagga is :upside_down_face:

I still think Nikkaya name, and then numbers, maybe vaggas can be bracketed as additional info.

It does become complicated - making the suttas available without necessarily knowing their organisation and the pali terms for this… Even though there is great info in the introduction and guides, it is a lot to take in and remember, and then use with ease.

:pray:

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The difficulty for our Design Team is that there are two extremely different groups of users: those who know nothing at all about the EBTS, and those that are extremely familiar (not to mention those of us scattered along the connecting continuum).

As I’ve wrestled with finding my way around, I’ve come to appreciate the efforts that have been made to accommodate all comers and to witness some of the difficulties involved. I wonder if it would be possible to have two separate entry screens, @sujato, one for Those Who Know and another for Those Who Don’t Know.

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@Gillian Might that contribute to identity views? (Maybe silly, but people often can cling to silly “things”).
Rather than a label, maybe just a toggle on-off of some additional information?

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Thanks for raising this important point Viveka, and likewise to Gillian for your wonderfully thoughtful response (as you’ll know from other threads helping to orient the bewildered—a group I categorize myself under—is an issue dear to me).

It’s not my place to reflect on the site’s many complex design challenges, but did just want to mention a semi-hack that may or may not be of help to you, pending on the nature of the searching/browsing you undertake: use url manipulation instead of the side menu.

One of the truly excellent design features of SC is that it’s url structure is simple and predictable, so if you know the exact sutta id you’re looking for, eg. MN22, just type it into the address bar, eg: https://suttacentral.net/mn22/ and you’ll be taken to the corresponding sutta card. If you want to go straight the actual sutta, you can just add en/sujato to the end (so https://suttacentral.net/mn22/en/sujato). Want to skip to an4.57? Just change the mn22 part of the address to an4.57.

If you don’t know the exact sutta, url manipulation may still help a bit (more and less depending on which nikaya you’re interested in browsing): https://suttacentral.net/dn will take you to a list of all the suttas in the Digha Nikaya, and the same with mn (and, actually, sn and an as well, but I’d recommend not using it for these two nikayas as there are just too many suttas and it doesn’t work the greatest with SC’s lazy loading (only a small number of items are loaded at a time to save the user’s data and time burden)). With the Anguttara you can browse by book pretty well, so eg., if you want to have a look what’s in the book of threes use https://suttacentral.net/an3 and likewise, with respect to the Samyutta Nikaya, if you want to browse the contents of samyutta 46 use https://suttacentral.net/sn46.

As an alternative, you might just find the old SuttaCentral site (https://legacy.suttacentral.net/) easier to use for the purposes of getting familiar with the overall body of texts (of course, you’ll not be able to read new translations there, but again if you do find something you want to checkout, you can just grab the id number and pop it into the url of the current SC site).

Again, I know this doesn’t speak at all to your valuable improvement suggestion, but I just wanted to share a couple of the practical tools I use to get around the issue in case it helps.

As a very last “just in case it helps”, here’re a couple of full outline lists of the AN and SN I made for myself for other purposes. They’re Markdown files, but should open with any text editor: an-sn-lists.zip (47.2 KB)

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The excellently designed URL is actually my own personal “user interface to SuttaCentral”.

I don’t use the sidebar at all because it has no relationship with the organization of suttas in my head, which is very idiosyncratically organized entirely by search phrase and sutta id (e.g., “root of suffering” and “mn1”).

Indeed, I actually edit the URL just as Aminah suggests (although I didn’t know about the dn trick. :open_mouth: )

Most recently I’ve simply relied on scv-bilara for command-line search and reading suttas. It uses bilara-data directly and is easier than changing the URL. Once we clear the Voice backlog, Anagarika Sabbamitta and I will probably need to discuss ways to bring scv-bilara features to the web. It would probably need to be a web application separate from Voice.

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I see… no risk for us to become jobless, right? :wink:

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I’m not sure Brian sees it that way. :smiling_imp:

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Do not fear! Brian will come before any new web application. He just has to wait for a little earthquake in the folder structure to be sorted out (it just managed to crash the staging server), and then his time will come very soon!

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:giggles:
:pray:

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I Always Look on the Bright Side… :notes:

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Lovely exposition. :pray:

I thought I was employing a metaphorical trope rather than suggesting titles for screens, :open_mouth:. I really hope I’ve not influenced the way anybody sees themselves. Tho of course we’re all self-responsible in that regard. :wink:

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@Gillian Of course. Please consider my previous post as just me thinking out loud; not worth another thought. :slight_smile:

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Hey Viveka and Dukkha, thanks for the feedback, I’m trying to understand your specific issues here.

One (relatively) straightforward issue is that it would be good for the sidebar to use translated titles where possible. That is definitely the case, and it is on our to-do list. However it is not as straightforward as you might think, because in some cases texts are better known by their Pali name. Then, do we have both? That starts to take up space. Anyway, I’m not sure of the final solution to this, but the aim is definitely to prefer translated titles.

Okay, next issue is, I believe, that you are looking for a sutta by number, is that correct? Of course you can always enter the number in the URL or the search. My suggestion a few weeks ago that the place you are is reflected in the sidebar comes in here, as well. That way you can start to move through the sidebar in both directions, down from the top, or up from the sutta.

I don’t think that’s going to work, if I understand you correctly. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of vaggas. There’s a reason why hierarchical structures are used, they organize large amounts of material in a manageable way.

Same with showing suttas under nikayas. There are over a thousand suttas in SN and AN. It just can’t be done.

The basic problem here is that through the sidebar and the suttaplex list (i.e. what you show in your screenshot) we have a rich set of information for the texts.

Now, one could imagine other navigation possibilities. For example, you can have a “site map” style thing, with a long indented list of texts, just name only. That might work in some cases, but it’s not going to be very mobile friendly.

Another problem is the role of the Chinese texts. See, SC is not just presenting what people want to see, we are also concerned to change what they want to see. That’s why we feature the Chinese and other texts so prominently. It’s a constant reminder that EARLY BUDDHIST TEXTS ARE NOT JUST PALI. No we know, of course, that relatively few people are going to look at the Chinese texts, a situation not helped by the paucity of translations. But still, you can’t just ignore them.

A more traditional structure would separate out the Pali and Chinese, making it easier to set up navigation for the Pali alone, at the expense of relegating Chinese to an also-ran.


One thing that technically could be done is to show the numbers in a more dynamic way, so for MN for example, you could see the numbers at the pannasa level, then if you opened up the vaggas the numbers transferred to the more detailed breakdown. This is technically possible, but complicated. I feel reluctant to add more complexity to an already-overburdened feature. To me, clicking to open the lower levels is almost instantaneous, it’s better to just “follow the yellow brick road” if you are looking for something specific.

By using the sidebar, you are gradually becoming more aware of the structure of texts as put together by the specialists of the past. That’s no bad thing. It’s also worth bearing in mind that in traditional countries texts are still referenced the long way, “Majjhima Nikaya, Mulapannasa, Mulapariyayavagga”, so this structure is really helpful for someone looking up that kind of reference.


Given that one solution will never suit everyone, a better idea may be to promote the structural data as a consumable API, and encourage third-party apps to implement their own take. Much as Voice has its own specific way of getting to suttas, other approaches may well be useful. That way SC proper can avoid the trap of continued feature bloat and focus on doing what we do even better.

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