Criteria For Keys

††† The goal for all of these identification guides is to find the best, fastest way to get to a final indentification. Traditional dichotomous keys fail to accomplish this. Multichotomous keys with groups of 4 or fewer choices are preferred to speed identification. While later parts of the keys may be dichotomous, the beginning parts are not. If a user realizes that an error in identification has been made, then alternative routes are quickly apparent. These keys minimize the problem of a dichotomous key where a single wrong choice may not be discovered until the very end of the key.
††† The keys are artificial. They do not necessarily group plants taxonomically nor genetically. A genus (or family) can be split so that one species may key in a different place than the rest of the genus if doing so makes identification easier and/or faster. A single species can key out in more than 1 place though this is generaly avoided.
††† Like traditional keys, photos and diagrams are not used. While the web has evolved away from its origins as a presenter of text to a rich media experience, rich media is not an effective tool for keys. Pages become slow to load, take up even more space, and the formatting for the plethora of different devices has become impossible. At some point we may create a detail page for individual species that includes a sketch, photograph and range map. Those pages will be used to confirm identification but should not be required.
††† Visual characteristics that require more than a 10X hand lens and a small metric ruler are avoided, or used later in the identification key. The keys gensrally avoid describing a small double costa or counting stomates that canít be seen without compound microscope.
††† Obvious and unique characters come first, followed by subtle or inconspicuous ones. Characters visible to the naked eye will come first, followed by characters dicernable by hand lens, then microscope or chemical tests.
††† Technical vocabulary is minimized and used only when no reasonable alternative exists. None-the-less these identification guides are designed for intermediate level botantists.
††† Characteristics that involve the destruction or collection of the plant are avoided if possible. Emphasis is placed on observing the plant in situ.
††† Seasonal characteristics are avoided except where no alternative exists. Using a characteristic of evergreen in middle of summer or describing a fruit that might not exist for several months is avoided.
††† The empahsis is on field identification of as many organisms as possible.
††† Regional identification keys are preferred as they make identification faster.
††† Any of the above rules are violated if it makes indentifcation of a species or group faster.

Criteria For HTML

††† Pages are written in HTML5 with an eye toward HTML4 Transitional compatability. This does mean different web browsers will act differently.
††† None of the guides are tested on any Apple device or OS. They have been checked on several Windows versions and Android devices.
††† Formatting (mainly bold and italic) is used only when essential to functionality.
††† Only 4 font sizes are used on each page. Readability (font size) can be easily adjusted by changing the device or browser display settings.
††† Pages are optimized for use on portable devices in the field. Hence the lack of 'modern' formatting.
††† Pages must load quickly. No non-essential html, tags or css. No scripting, frames, or tables, as they impair the key's structure on smart phones and phablets.
††† A web connection is often not available in the field so we want as many of these as possible in a stand alone digital format. Hence the reformatting for eReaders and Kindle. A saved page should be fully functional. The minimal CSS is embedded on each page.
††† Some guides are available as PDF and can be easily printed if you are so inclined.


Improvements? Errors? A key you wish to have posted or adapted for posting? Email Jeff at info@TheDigitalNaturalist.info. Please note that I check this email sporadically!