Structure is good, but without logically aranged content, it’s nothing.
Level 1 – ‘Splash’ (Title) Page
The ‘splash’ page of the study is at the apex of the pyramid, the main entry point for the study. A ‘splash’ page is exactly that – you want to make a memorable first impression. A good first impression utilizes a clean design where the subject is immediately recognizable. You do not have to incorporate the latest technological innovations to make it a good experience.
The judicious use of graphics, a prominent title, perhaps a subtitle as well as the purpose and objective of the study is what we’re aiming for. At the bottom of the page, include a footer area with a copyright notice and a version number or revision date. More information could be added, but the goal is to keep it simple and attractive. The viewer should look at the ‘splash’ page and be intrigued enough to want to see what follows.
Level 2 – Introduction and Table of Contents
A more complete introduction than is found on the ‘splash’ page is an important item on my personal list. This is the answer to the title page teaser and should make viewers hungry for the remaining pages by giving them the complete storyline in short-form. That’s not to say your entire story should appear on this page, but a detailed overview of the study is appropriate.
Some exhibitors may not agree with this view, but keep in mind that this is not a philatelic exhibit. It’s a digital study and therefore needs more depth than can be afforded in the exhibit frame simply because it presents depth in the subject and is not restricted by physical boundaries.
A table of contents or index is important somewhere in the study and you may have both. I personally like both as it increases the viewer’s ability to find information quickly. A table of contents consisting of bullet points and a few words describing each bullet point is informative and short. It can be constructed by selecting several of the ordered ideas from your notebook exercise. Produce the bullet points by synthesizing each main idea into a word or two, essentially section headings. An index can be included in Level 4.
Level 3 – Philatelic Content
The main philatelic content should follow the introduction and table of contents. Go directly to the substance of the study and give the viewer what they came to see.
What, besides stamps, should you include in your study?
It depends on the type of study, but in general, these are philatelic items you own or aspire to. You can scan your materials and ask if owners of other materials might also provide you with scans. Everyone enjoys having their efforts recognized, so ensuring that owners are recognized as study contributors is key to obtaining cooperation. DO NOT renege on your part of the deal! If anything, give them more credit than they’re due…
My digital reference includes all types of philatelic materials, exhibit pages, checklists, maps, illustrations, descriptive texts, historical documents, postal regulations, etc. Anything you deem appropriate can be used as this is your dream, just remain aware of copyright restrictions.
Be comprehensive by including materials directly associated with the subject. It’s a good practice as it strengthens the study. Correctly and logically arrange the material and allow the focus pieces on a page to shine by not overcrowding them.
A catalog type study is a reasonable place to start and it may actually help you in the beginning. As you develop however, keep your focus! Don’t allow ‘scope creep’ to expand your initial idea beyond your goal, diluting your project so it’s only a “Jumble of Stuff on the Subject of…” When in doubt, leave it out (or consider including it in level 4 as appropriate).
Level 4 – Supporting Information
Below the main philatelic material content is the supporting information section. Support information consists of items such as philatelic articles on the subject, historical and social background information, book and magazine references, a glossary of terms used, short biographies of important people or information on institutions associated with the subject, a bibliography, author credits, contact information, awards won, internet links, administrative information including ‘legal beagle’ notices and a ‘help’ page explaining how to use the study. The list goes on and on depending on your study’s intended purpose.
You’ve read references watched slide shows and listened to experts and collectors present their knowledge during seminars at meetings and shows. You’ve formed a library of books, magazine and newspaper clippings, photocopies and notes. How much time did you spend digging out those references? How difficult was it to find them once you knew they existed? How long does it take to find that little nugget of information you need right NOW in that library?
Including references in your digital study provides solid bedrock for it. Future specialists in your field will appreciate your efforts even if they don’t know you. After all, we’re only caretakers of this material and improving the state of the art is a duty as well as a joy in our hobby.