Over the past decade, search has been revolutionized by companies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Today, it is uncommon to go to a Web site that does not contain a search box. Search efficiency and accuracy greatly affect the user’s experience. The Church has a lot of wonderful content that we want the public to have easy access to.
On a few of our recent projects, we have leveraged new tools that are proving to be very beneficial to our content-driven Web sites. With the large amounts of content that are created and stored on Church Web sites, it has become apparent that using proprietary content management not only restricts us from having free access to our content, but also wastes time and money.
Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a specification used to create versatile custom markup languages. We have developed a custom XML schema to aid in the publishing process. This is important because, by the time content hits the Web, it has already been published and is, therefore, in XML format. Our custom XML is becoming a standard at the Church.
Research and evaluation of products have revealed some technologies that may improve our ability to deliver our valuable content to the world. We can provide users with a drastically improved ability to find the content for which they are looking. By using these tools, we are able to query and manipulate XML content more efficiently and develop content-delivery Web sites more quickly.
The Church has purchased and begun using an XML content server. It is a database designed specifically for XML content and works with it much better than a relational database. This XML content server uses a query language called XQuery. This will become the standard means of accessing collections of XML documents.
The same tools that are being used to store, query, and otherwise manipulate our data also provide amazing search capabilities. We can provide a more in-depth search of the content and do it more efficiently and accurately. The majority of the content provided to the general public via the Web can also be found in books, manuals, magazines, and other published works. The Church has developed a successful publishing process with publishing tools customized to its needs.
The idea behind the use of XML on Church sites is to create a single source of content, both externally and internally. XML is extremely versatile. Different groups within the Church require that content be formatted differently to suit their specific purposes. Because XML is so ubiquitous, there are many tools available that make it easy to convert it into any format.
Church magazines have already started using XML. Other groups and departments are preparing to switch in the near future.
Online Church content will become more user-friendly and results-oriented with the combination of using XML for Church Web site content and storing it in an XML content server. Many developers are very excited about the new tools we are using and the benefits they are providing us. I am certain that the public will enjoy the improved Web sites and the efficient way in which they deliver the important message the Church has to offer.
Travis Foxley is an engineer for the Church.