Designing an interface to provide new functionality for the post-processing of web-based annotations

du Toit, Nicola (2014)

Includes bibliographical references.


Systems to annotate online content are becoming increasingly common on the World Wide Web. While much research and development has been done for interfaces that allow users to make and view annotations, few annotation systems provide functionality that extends beyond this and allows users to also manage and process collections of existing annotations. Siyavula Education is a social enterprise that publishes high school Maths and Science textbooks online. The company uses annotations to collate collaborator and volunteer feedback (corrections, opinions, suggestions) about its books at various phases in the book-writing life cycle. Currently the company captures annotations on PDF versions of their books. The web-based software they use allows for some filtering and sorting of existing annotations, but the system is limited and not ideal for their rather specialised requirements. In an attempt to move away from a proprietary, PDF-based system Siyavula implemented Annotator (, software which allowed for the annotation of HTML pages. However, this software was not coupled with a backend interface that would allow users to interact with a database of saved annotations. To enable this kind of interaction, a prototype interface was designed and is presented here. The purpose of the interface was to give users new and improved functionality for querying and manipulating a collection of web-based annotations about Siyavula’s online content. Usability tests demonstrated that the interface was successful at giving users this new and necessary functionality (including filtering, sorting and searching) to process annotations. Once integrated with front-end software (such as Annotator) and issue tracking software (such as GitHub) the interface could form part of a powerful new tool for the making and management of annotations on the Web.