Conceptual View Integration for Audience Driven Web Design

Olga De Troyer
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, WISE
Pleinlaan 2
B-1050 Brussel, Belgium
Tel: +32-2-629 35 04
Peter Plessers
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, WISE
Pleinlaan 2
B-1050 Brussel, Belgium
Tel: +32-2-629 37 54
Sven Casteleyn
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, WISE
Pleinlaan 2
B-1050 Brussel, Belgium
Tel: +32-2-629 37 54


In an audience driven approach to website design, the requirements of the different audiences are modeled as separated tiny conceptual schemas comparable to views. We present a new approach to integrate these conceptual views. The preparation for the integration is already done during the design phase. Semantic information about the concepts used during modeling is stored in an ontology. Later on, the ontology is used to do the integration. This approach has several advantages. The role of an overall domain expert is limited; the ontology can be used to assist the designer during modeling; the ontology can be reused in other designs; and the use of an ontology paves the way for the semantic web.


view integration, schema integration, website design, audience-driven


WSDM ([2], [3]) uses a so-called 'audience driven' approach to website design. It takes into account that different types of users (audience classes) may exist and may have different needs and requirements. WSDM starts with the identification of the different audience classes and the description of their requirements. The different requirements are modeled separately, resulting in a number of schemas called chunks. Every chunk models one requirement of a specific audience class. To link the information modeled in the different chunks, all chunks are integrated into a single information model. Here, we present an approach to integrate these chunks in a semi-automatic way.

The problem of integrating chunks is strongly related to the problem of schema integration and more in particular view integration[1] (chunks are comparable to views), however the integration techniques developed in the context of databases cannot be used as such: (1) Chunks also allow to model functionality, this is not the case in information system design; (2) constraints are used for a different purpose.


One of the fundamental problems in the integration of information is semantic heterogeneity [5]. Objects with the same name can refer to different concepts and objects with different names can refer to the same concept. Semantic information is needed to detect and solve this. We will use an ontology for this. From previous research in schema integration we know that the semantic information needed is mainly the different kind of relationships that exist between the concepts in the domain. Ontologies are defined as an explicit specification of a conceptualization [4]. They describe concepts in a domain as well as relationships between these concepts and the terminology used. Therefore, ontologies are well suited for a formal description of this type of semantic information. During the modeling of the different chunks the semantic information needed will be collected into an ontology. Further on, the approach is based on the classical schema integration framework [1] consisting of the phases: Pre-Integration, Schema Analysis, Schema merging and Restructuring.

The structure of our ontology is as follows:

Each concept in the ontology is identified by an identifier ; has a set of labels that are possible names for the concept (e.g. 'film', 'movie'); and has a comment (text).

The ontology also contains dependencies (pre-defined relationships) that may exist between the concepts:

Part of the information in the ontology is entered by the designer(s) while making the chunks; the rest is derived using a set of rules. The elements used in the chunks are linked to the concepts in the ontology. Every chunk element (object type, role, relationship, ...) refers to exactly one ontology concept. In this way, we can have two chunk elements with different names that refer to the same ontology concept. E.g. by using the same ontology concept for EmployeeId and AdminNumber we state that they are in fact the same concepts. Similarly, we can have two different chunk elements with the same name that refer to different ontology concepts.

We now sketch the different phases of the integration process. In traditional schema integration pre-integration is used to translate the local schemas into a common language. In our situation all chunks are modeled using the same language. We use the pre-integration phase to collect the necessary semantic information for the object types and roles introduced during modeling. The best moment to collect semantic information about something is when it is introduced. Therefore, if a new concept is used (by a designer) it is introduced in the ontology and possible dependencies with other concepts are identified. The designer can also provide a comment explaining the meaning of the concept and the role it fulfils in the domain. Other designers can use these comments to quickly identify relevant concepts in the ontology and to investigate possible dependencies between concepts. Incorporating the collecting of semantic information into the modeling process may slow down this process but we believe that it is a better and less time consuming solution then collecting it afterward. If it has to be entered after modeling (like in classical integration approaches) more errors will be made and more time will be needed (we may not always remember the exact meaning of a concept). An additional advantage is that, in case multiple designers are involved, each designer can enter the semantic information for his own concepts and relate it directly to the concepts already entered by the other designers or reuse concepts from other designers.

Also note that the designer does not have to enter semantic information for all concepts introduced. Only semantic information for Lexical Concepts and Relationships need to be given, the rest is derived using rules. This is done during the Schema Analysis phase.

When conceptual modeling is finished, the ontology constructed defines all concepts and relationships used in the chunks. This information is used to construct the integrated schema.

The Restructuring phase has the same purpose as in the classic schema integration framework: enrichment, quality improvement and error correction.


As already mentioned it is more effective to enter semantic information when it is introduced. Also the semantic information can be used to make suggestions to the designers. In addition, the role of the domain expert can be limited considerable. In traditional integration solutions an overall domain expert has to provide all the semantic information during the integration process to solve any possible conflicts. This is a cumbersome and erroneous task. Here, the role of such an overall domain expert is minimized because each individual designer only needs to have knowledge about the part of the domain he or she is designing. For large domains, this is a great benefit. In addition, less semantic information than usual need to be given because some can be derived. One more advantage is that by linking the concepts to an ontology during the conceptual design of the website we pave the way to the semantic web. In the semantic web, the information in a website is annotated with ontology concepts. This allows exploring the knowledge available in the ontology when the website is e.g. queried. In our approach the annotation with ontology concepts comes for free.


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