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Current projects: evolution of a website

The development of the TMSV website began in 2001, when it was agreed by the Board of the TMSV that the increasing pervasiveness of the Internet demanded a TMSV presence on the web. This would provide a low cost method of advertising the activities of the TMSV, given that all involved with the website construction were unpaid volunteers.

M&MTB W2 no 575 at Balaclava Junction late in the afternoon (1960s). Photograph TMSV archive.
M&MTB W2 no 575 at Balaclava Junction late in the afternoon (1960s). Photograph from the TMSV archive.

The exercise commenced with a review of existing tramway heritage websites in order to gain an idea of the current marketplace. However, it was found that most sites of this type were of little interest to the general populace, being oriented towards tram enthusiasts (locally known in Melbourne as ‘gunzels’). Furthermore, many of these websites were poorly designed, particularly from both a graphical and usability perspective.

This led the website project team to formulate the following objectives:

  • The content of the website would be of interest to both tramway enthusiasts and the general populace, with the aim of it evolving into a key educational resource for those interested in Victoria’s tramways. Emphasis would be placed on social history and the contribution of key individuals to Victoria’s tramways, not just the immediate activities of the TMSV.
  • The website should encapsulate the best possible graphical design whilst not impacting adversely on download speed, with a premium placed on usability and page navigation.

These objectives drove the project, causing it to split into two parallel streams to achieve implementation.


There were a number of key design criteria for the ‘look and feel’ of the website.

  • A consistent design standard would be used across all pages in the website. It was to be simple and clean in design, in order to minimise download time. The number graphical elements on each page was minimised (generally limited to the TMSV logo, the menu background and a photograph).
  • The corporate colours of the TMSV are chocolate and cream, based on the original livery of the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board. The website colours were chosen to reflect this theme — in addition, it was decided that black and white photos would be rendered in sepia tones. This has the advantage of increasing the heritage ‘look and feel’ of the website, as well as reinforcing the selected colour scheme.
  • The font chosen, Trebuchet, was chosen for its simplicity and clean appearance. In addition, it is supplied as a standard font with Windows, so that the look will be consistent no matter what browser a surfer was using.
  • The home page was to be of a different design to the other pages, with no actual content except the broad purpose of the TMSV. Instead, it acts purely as a combination frontispiece and table of contents, in order to provide a suitable entry point for the site. Furthermore, a suitable image was selected to grab the attention of the casual surfer, to encourage further viewing of the site.
  • A three-part menu system using rollovers was chosen to provide a clear and simple method of navigation. Menu items specific to the page would appear on the left side, with links to key sections running along above the text. In addition, links to informational pages regarding the website appear on the very top of the page.
  • The TMSV logo acts as a link to the home page on all pages.
  • In sections consisting of a series of articles, an additional navigation feature was added at the end of each article allowing the surfer to load the previous or next article in the series.
  • Links embedded in content would follow the Internet standard of appearing in blue as underlined text.
  • Neither frames nor buttons were to be used in the website.


Development of content occurred in parallel to the design process. Over 90% of the content is new original work developed specifically for the website between 2001-03.

The Internet lends itself to a new style of writing. Rather than constraining the reader to follow the text sequentially, a deliberate decision was made to write new content following the Internet paradigm of providing links to related items, allowing the reader to take control of the process of absorbing the material. This is not usual in traditional material, but is increasingly being used on both the Internet and multimedia applications.

Furthermore, it was decided to provide links within articles to non-TMSV sites of relevance to the subject.

Existing material was primarily sourced from back issues of the TMSV newsletter Running Journal, which provides a host of material published over the last 40 years. However, at this point in time, only a fraction of this material has been used in the website. Some editing of this material has been undertaken in order to more closely align it with the Internet paradigm, as well as including some additional material.

In developing the content, the project had three main objectives:

  • to outline the history of individual items in the TMSV’s collection;
  • to provide the public with readily available information about the TMSV’s activities; and
  • to provide a historical resource on the Internet covering the history of Victoria’s urban tramways.

The third objective was seen to be the major differentiator between existing heritage tramway websites and the proposed TMSV site.

However, rather than trying to write an exhaustive history covering all of Victoria’s tramway history, it was decided to develop a range of relatively short articles or monographs on specific aspects of that history. This approach has the advantage that the website could grow incrementally over a period of time, rather than taking a ‘Big Bang’ approach which would delay this material becoming available for a number of years.

Furthermore, it allows multiple authors to contribute rather than forcing a single viewpoint or writing style on the content.

A key decision was made early on in the project to focus not just on items of interest to tramway enthusiasts, but to supply material on both the social history of Victoria’s tramways and key individuals involved in their history. It was felt that this would make the site of broader appeal to the casual surfer and general researcher.

Articles were to be kept relatively short, in order that readers did not become overloaded with detail and consequently become bored. It was also decided that articles were to be illustrated with appropriate photographs where available in order to highlight aspects of each article.

The future

The website was finally launched in April 2003 after two years’ hard work. There have been two updates to the website up until October 2003. Our objective over the longer period is to aim for 4-5 updates per year.

The TMSV has received much unsolicited feedback from people who have viewed the website, all of it very positive. This has indicated to the project that the approach taken is correct, and that the website can grow further based on the current model. Curiously enough, the ‘gunzel’ community has commented very favourably on the social history aspects of the website.

Much of the future growth is intended to come from additional historical articles, both newly written and from the TMSV archives, but it is planned to add two new major features during 2004:

  • a photographic archive of Victorian trams and tramways; and
  • an archive of transcribed original material held by the TMSV to be made available for researchers on the web.

The future of the TMSV website indeed looks promising, and the TMSV hopes that it will develop into the standard historical work on Victorian tramways, which does not exist on traditional media at this point in time.


The following people were major contributors to the construction of the TMSV website as at October 2003:

  • Project Manager and Editor: Russell Jones
  • Web Designer: Noelle Jones
  • Content Contributors: Russell Jones, Graeme Turnbull, Keith S. Kings
  • Researchers: Graham Jordan, Valma Fell, Rod Atkins, Noelle Jones
  • Scanners: Colin Gillam, Graham Jordan
  • Hosting: Andy Blume

Last updated 17 November 2003.
Content copyright © Russell Jones 2001-3. Reproduced with permission.