Size matters

The website of the digital edition already looks pretty good, but I still cannot publish the link as long as the partners have not agreed on the way they are presented. And more important, on the way their manuscripts are presented. Plus, the search engine is still not installed. So, really, for you as a user, there is not much to see.

As a project manager and having invested almost all of my money of the past year  in this edition, it is a relief to see how professional it looks, even if some major aspects are still not clear (long time archiving for instance, ahem…). I am confident that there comes a point where you have to show something to get something, especially in a scientific community that has basically not the slightest idea what kind of time, energy, money, professionalism in all kinds of skills, setting such an edition involves. So the point now is (apart from enriching the corpus, which I hope I will manage to do on my normal work time and not just in the evenings) to have something that works well and that looks good.

As sure as I was about what was necessary for it to be perceived as something that works well, it proved much more complicated to settle on what looks good. Starting from the question where to put all the logos of the partner institutions involved, the discussion ended up revolving around how big our own logo should be and, essentially, what should be the one big thing you see first when you get to the page.

I tried to get an answer from the institutions and from other sites. It turns out that the DFG has no clear guidelines on how to be quoted as a sponsor, but my contact there sent me links. I looked those up, I looked up big German editions (Faust, Heinrich Heine, C.M. Weber), I looked up Bentham, I looked up my all-time favorite online edition, the Van Gogh Letters. Obviously, some of those had real money to get a real designer take care of the page, others did not. We will definitely not have that kind of money: that point is settled. Within the limits of our budget now, what should we consider?

Once again, it sums up to who we are addressing. Hence, it sums up to my dream of addressing both scholars and “other” people. For scholars, you can surely satisfy yourself with a solution like the Heine Portal or the Carl Maria von Weber Gesamtausgabe. But for anyone else, that kind of presentation is not appealing enough: the information is not structured enough or there is too much of it. The main problem is, there are two important instances that need to appear immediately as the first information: the research group and the edition itself. The research group is called “Nachwuchsgruppe Berliner Intellektuelle 1800-1830”, the edition is called “Das intellektuelle Berlin um 1800: unedierte Texte und Briefe”. Even if you don’t speak German, you will have noticed the overlap. This is bothering me; I would like to avoid redundancy because I fear it might actually drown the important information. But what is more important: the research group, or the edition? Should be they the same size (medium, big, very big?)? What should come first? And more importantly: should we stick to the brownish-yellowish-orangish colors I like so much because it is a relief for the computer-tired eye, or should we look into something more fancy (but then what?)?

You will find out in a month or so, when I will have the pleasure of giving you the IP address…


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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