Indexes in the Web

Indexes found on the Web come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some stand alone and some link to text. In this paper we explore the different approaches that indexers (and their commissioning clients) have taken to provide effective and innovative access to information.

We will primarily be looking at and discussing indexes that have been prepared for a traditional print product and subsequently (in some cases both text and index) mounted on web sites, and one index that is prepared exclusively for web display. (Note: this index was demonstrated in Canberra, but has recently been removed and is not included in the handout content below).

We will not be discussing the indexing of web sites which not only requires a different approach entirely, but also provides active linking to text at the time an entry is made and involves periodic checking to ensure the link remains active.

Some of the indexes that we will demonstrate link to documents on the same web site, but several are regularly updated cumulative indexes which precede the less frequently produced print version. For example, journal indexes can be updated monthly with a print index produced annually.

Logic would seem to insist that there should be little or no difference between print and web-mounted indexes in terms of:

  • indexing standards (accuracy, appropriateness, organisational consistency, etc.)
  • speed and ease of access, regardless of medium.

David K. Ream

Substantial differences may lie, however, both in the manner in which the index is displayed between print and web-mounted indexes and also in the ease with which one moves from index to text in the following three scenarios:

  • print index to print text
  • web index to print text
  • web index to web index.

For example, multi-volume works with a single index require an additional step (to locate the individual volume) in the print medium whereas the same web index linked to web text does not require the user to take that extra step.

Before looking at technical and presentation concerns when preparing indexes for web display, and subsequent demonstration and discussion of the indexes on the enclosed handout (text attached below), we offer a few thoughts for your consideration:

  • Is the potential audience wider with a web index? If it is, should we be adopting different indexing strategies than we currently use for traditional print products?
  • Is it now time for a renaissance of the much-maligned, and under- appreciated, introductory note to the index? Now that the user always starts at the beginning of the index (not the case in a print index), just think of the possibilities — perhaps a reminder at the start of each letter group!
  • And, finally, with the advent of e-books, particularly in the reference and textbook arena, we will probably see the development of a different kind of index: browseable yet layered, linked to the text and perhaps ‘back-linked’ from the text to like entries in the index.

The following web page contains a link from which the PowerPoint slides can be downloaded for a comparison of Print vs. Web Index display and creation criteria:

The text of the handout is shown below.

Frances S. Lennie is the owner of Indexing Research, Rochester, New York, USA ( )

David Ream is the senior consultant at Leverage Technologies, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, USA (

<p “=””>At the following locations you will find indexes prepared by CINDEX™ indexing software and ‘mounted’ for browsing. Some have been processed by HTML/Prep (indicated by *), developed and distributed by Leverage Technologies, Inc. (— browse to Products and Services | LevTech Utilities | HTML/Prep).


The Darien News Review and The Darien Times

Local History Journal

Rochester History *


Labor Relations Reporter * (Index and Table of Cases)

Government Employee Relations Report * (Index and Table of Cases)


Psychosomatic Medicine journal_index200.html


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