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Smallsite Design

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Planning a site

Smallsite Design provides a few structures to help with fleshing out a workable site. To use these effectively, some planning may help.

The three basic components of a site are:

site                       Hosted domain
└─ subsite Has own home page and navigation
└─ category Group of related articles
└─ article Where the real content goes

When installed, there is already a main subsite, complete with its own default category, and in that a home page. The site is operational and is in its minimum configuration, but this is not what you bought Smallsite Design for, so let's see what we can really do with it!


A locale is a combination of a language, optionally a script, and a region, usually a country. It is used to specify what character set is used and how numbers and dates are formatted.

Smallsite Design allows content to be shown for multiple locales, though most sites will only use one as its master locale, which will typically be set for what most of the target audience will be used to.

Careful consideration must be taken in selecting the master locale, because while it can be renamed to use a different region/country, its language or script cannot be changed, as that could make all current content at odds with the rendering script and direction required by the new locale. Neither is it possible to swap another locale with the master, due to the deep internal dependencies tied to locales. Hence the need to select a widely-used language in the master locale so that it is unlikely to need changing as the audience or your focus for the site changes.

If wanting a site to cater for a particular group that uses a little used language, compared to the world, preferably use a widely used language for your master locale and the lesser-known as a secondary locale. This will make the site accessible for most users while catering to your special visitors.


Subsites are like a self-contained part of a site with their own navigation and home page. There is always a main subsite.

Each of the main elements has an identifier (ID) that is used in URLs, so the initial layout of the main subsite, by ID, is:

main                   Main subsite
└─ main Default category, with same ID as its subsite
└─ h-main Home page, with the subsite ID preceded by h-

Subsites and default categories are not directly accessible by a path, but through their home page, such as /art/h-main/, though the main home page has the special path of /.

If a site is for a single purpose, at least in the way you see it, then no other subsites are needed. However, if you want the site to cover areas that might attract different target audiences, whether that be in the topics covered, or by differences in depth of treatment, then extra subsites can be of benefit. That is because they offer their own home page and navigation, making it easier for visitors to stay with what they are interested in.

Extra subsites need their own name, from which their ID is derived, so a name of Buying land produces an ID of buying-land, leading to a ID structure of:

buying-land               Buying land subsite
└─ buying-land Default category
└─ h-buying-land Home page

The name here was in English, but as long as the name can be rendered in Unicode, it can be in any of hundreds of the world's languages. Note that users' browsers also need to support the name's Unicode characters, otherwise the name appears as a bunch of small boxes! Check the browser versions your visitors are likely to use to ensure names are rendered properly.

As a site develops over time, some extra subsites may have been created. If the focus and audience of the site has changed over that time to favour one of the subsites, it can be swapped with the current main subsite to become the new main subsite. The URLs for the articles and categories will not change, except for the home pages. During the swap, a new name for the former main subsite will be required and from which a new subsite id will be generated and prefixed with h- to be used in the new path to its home page.


Categories are a collection of related articles, and have a page that lists them all.

While you could just put all articles in the default category, they cannot be listed from there. Making a category means that all the articles in it can be listed, so a category name of Evergreen trees would lead to an ID of evergreen-trees whose articles would be listed using a path of /cat/evergreen-trees/.

To get a list of all the non-default categories in a subsite, the path is like that for a single category, but using the subsite ID instead, such as /cat/buying-land/, even though that would appear to be what we would use to access the default category, if we could.

The order of articles listed on the category page can be alphabetical, reverse alphabetical or numeric. When numeric, the position number is listed before each headline in the list, but also in the heading of the article page itself. Articles of a numerically-listed category also have links to the previous and next articles in the sequence in a special navigation bar at the bottom of the article.

Articles in a non-default category also have a special navigation bar, with a link to the category listing page, preceded by a Categories link to the subsite's category list. Also included are subsite category and article totals. If the article order is numeric, Previous and Next links to the respective articles in the sequence are also shown.


Articles are the repository of the information the site is providing. There are several special types that help build a useful site.

Article IDs are derived from their headlines, prefixed with their type identifier, except for special subsite articles which use their subsite ID instead.

The available article types and their ID prefixes are:
#TypePrefixID fromDescription
1Generala-HeadlineGeneral purpose with sections and subsections
2Navigationn-HeadlineNavigational pages, because they allow card arrays or an image gallery. Limited content otherwise
3Procedurep-HeadlineProcedures and instructions with steps, substeps, and learning notes
4Questionnaireq-HeadlineSimple multiple-choice questions for helping readers gauge their understanding of a topic. Score-dependent comments can be added. Results are shown, but not retained
5Glossaryg-Subsite IDList of special terms used in the subsite
6Policiesl-Subsite IDList of the policies applying to use of the site or its services, including privacy

Home pages are a navigation page, but with their ID built from a h- prefix to their subsite ID. Along with the Glossary page and Policies page, it is in the subsite's default category. Another subsite-specific article is the contact page, but it is built from the information supplied in the Contact section of the Subsite page. Because default categories cannot be listed, links to these subsite pages can be enabled in the Site links row of the Links to section of the Subsite page.

Articles can also be placed in a default category, such as an About page that would be the first slot in the subsite navigation bar. Navigation pages in the default category can serve as mid-level navigation with cards, where they are fed by cards on the home page and feed to category pages or other navigation pages that are suitable to be a signature page in a category.


There are some practical limits for what Smallsite Design can do, which don't tend to limit what it is intended for, but knowing them may help plan your sites better.

Smallsite Design is meant for writers to build an enduring body of knowledge that they want people to read, rather than a constantly increasing stack of mostly ad-hoc and unstructured rants that nobody wants to read anytime after. In this context, a hundred or so articles will likely be sufficient to contain the information that such a site needs to properly cover its material.

While there are no hard-wired limits on how many subsites, categories or articles are allowed, some practicalities still apply. Too many subsites might be too overwhelming for a visitor to make a choice from, so 2 to 4 is reasonable when viewed in the Subsites list in the subsite navigation bar.

The Categories page is basically a high-level navigation page, where too many categories to choose from can also be overwhelming. A limit of 4 to 8 is reasonably few to make a quick choice from. However, a category page can have a list of 10 to 15 articles, because making a choice here finally results in something to read, so a visitor will want to make a considered choice among many topics that will interest them.

Fleshing out the average numbers gives a total number of articles between 80 to 480, which would be a reasonable numbers for a comprehensive site, while still giving a snappy enough response. In a practical site, many categories would only have a few articles, giving about 100 to 200 articles in total.

In the beginning, many writers may write short-form articles as they add topics they think of at the time. Over time, they may see opportunities for better organisation of the material, and so consolidate articles using sections and subsections to give a better internal article structure that is still allowing the information to be easy to navigate because of the automatically created navigatation bars for the article and sections. These consolidations will result in lower numbers of articles.

Given that articles may get larger through amalgamations, what are the practical limits on article size? A general article can have up to 99 blocks, like paragraphs or lists, and 20 sections, each of which can have another 99 blocks and 9 subsections, each of which can have 99 blocks. That means that an article can have about 20000 blocks, which even if they were plain text at a maximum of 600 basic characters, that would make an article of over 10MB of HTML, which many web servers can't handle. Images and other files are separately-loaded after the HTML.

A file of a quarter that size (2.5MB) takes less than 1.5 seconds to load from half-way around the world, so even with very large plain HTML pages, performance is still snappy. No one is likely to amalgamate anywhere near that much!

Articles contain the text for all locale versions of their text, but only that for the current locale is served, so several locales should not create much extra stress on a site to deliver.


Having seen the basics of what is available in Smallsite Design, here are some scenarios.

The three scenarios that fed the design of Smallsite Design are:
aWriterSpecifically for a writer wanting to build a body of knowledge, rather than just blogging
bSmall clubWhere there is one editor in charge of the site, while some key members may contribute articles, perhaps under their own subsite. A small news outlet or publicity unit are other candidates
cOnline helpThis site is the online help for Smallsite Design, so this scenario is validated. In fact, it is because Smallsite Design needed online help that it has been properly designed to serve that purpose

Note that Smallsite Design has not been specifically designed for uses where strict versioning and prevention of alterations to the process records for that, or for ISO9000 compliance. However, just like with some popular enterprise web software packages that are also not compliant, pages can be converted to PDFs and stored in a records database that does satisfy such requirements.

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