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Linux 2003
Conference and Tutorials
Thurs 31st July - Sun 3rd August 2003
Edinburgh, Scotland

Siu-wai Leung - University of Edinburgh

Automated Website Synthesis

Paper (PDF)

Introduction Automated website synthesis facilitates the construction and maintenance of websites and their components by using knowledge engineering technologies. It will help web developers and customers cope with technical problems such as:

  • Short life cycles from continual re-design
  • Diversified customer preferences
  • Frequent content updates
  • Reliability assurance

A Computational Logic Approach We use transformational techniques, particularly structural synthesis in which reusable design components are parameterized, configured and refined to bridge the gap between problem description and final specification. Such techniques provide a formal knowledge-based approach as an alternative to ad hoc web scripting. They have been found useful in specific domains such as ecological model synthesis and have been adapted to website synthesis.

The refinement steps of the reusable design components are declaratively specified by rewrite rules, which are interpreted by a website synthesizer. We have applied this technique to synthesize websites for University institutes, aviation accident reporting and its causal perception experiments. Website synthesis begins with an ontology (meta-description based on a Semantic Web) of a problem domain and applicable transformations which relate elements of the ontology to elements of the website content description. We therefore have a search space of rewrites from an initial domain-specific ontology leading to a detailed website content description. In simple cases, where there is exactly one route through this space, we have a fully automatic synthesis procedure. If there are multiple routes leading to different results, interactions with human or automated reasoners at choice points or additional problem-specific constraints are necessary. The final step transforms the final web content description into a website. As such, the websites can be synthesized with great ease and high reliability.

Speaking Semantic Web Languages As an alternative to the direct synthesis of web pages in HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) from computational logic specifications, we can set the synthesizer to output XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and XSLT (eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformation) documents in compliance with the W3C standards for Semantic Web and Web Services. By using XSLT, XML documents can be transformed into HTML or other multimedia XML documents, such as SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), for further rendering at client (browser) or server side.

Managing Changes and Variety Website synthesis serves web content management well. As long as the domain ontology (information architecture) remains the same, changes of information content would not destroy the structural integrity of a website. Even if the domain ontology is changed, the website can be rebuilt using applicable web components with little effort.

Website synthesis may also generate multiple website structures with a prescribed content either to tailor services for customers or to test perceptual hypotheses. In one experiment, we synthesized two hundred websites with different arrangements of presenting aviation accident information and corroborated a recent theory of causal perception.

Automating Rational Web Design The intention is not to synthesize websites according to all web design theories, but to focus on those websites in which design decisions are consistently justifiable by explicit knowledge i.e. rational web design. When there are conceptual gaps between information content and available web design components, we need axioms or rewrite rules to bridge those gaps before performing website synthesis. Such rules represent web design decisions or principles. We are looking into a minimal analogy approach and preference reasoning to automate web design decisions in bridging such conceptual gaps.

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