It’s not about you! Designing for your end users.

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, October 21, 2015 4:54 PM

When we are working with clients to design new search interfaces, we always stress the importance of defining who will be using the system, and then trying to meet the specific needs and expectations of these end users.

It’s Not About You
We often have to remind clients that “It’s not about you!” Archivists and librarians in particular often ask us for search pages with lots of options as they personally are used to constructing complex queries. However the trend with most search interfaces is to keep these simple with a single Google style search box. 

We suggest that you think about other websites your end users search, whether that be a university or public library catalog, or Amazon or other shopping sites.  Nearly all of these now use a discovery style interface that is geared to letting users put words or terms into a search box, and then narrowing their searches down from the search results page through facets or filters.

Like most other search interfaces, we do usually include some Advanced Search options but the website usage statistics we’ve collected for our hosted client sites over the years indicate that most are rarely accessed.  Pre-selecting search limiters removes the possibility of serendipitous discovery of unexpected resources, and the expectation now is that the results will be displayed by relevance so that the closest matches appear first.  We therefore discourage clients from specifying a traditional title sort, as if the user is looking for a known item and searches on words in the title, it will appear at or near the top of a relevance ranked display.

Use Cases and Personas
One of the ways we suggest you try to relate to your end user needs is through the creation of personas or user profiles.   For each of these personas we then suggest you think about factors that might impact their searching behaviour.   First and foremost - what are they looking for and why?  What will they want to do next when they’ve found something of interest?   So for a publicly accessible archives site, you might create personas for the following types of users.


Carol is looking for pictures of her grandparents and the house where they lived


Lucy wants a picture of an old farm implement for a school project


George is compiling a history of a local church.


John works at City Hall & wants to find maps or plans of an area slated for redevelopment.


Kevin is interested in a local railway line that runs through the area.


Daphne is writing her thesis on a local political movement.

Make the process a fun exercise by incorporating graphical representations using images from a stock photo site such as– search for avatar to find these examples, or contact us to help you. We find images make it easier to visualize how a person might behave, rather than just assigning an abstract name. The usability.govwebsite has an excellent overview article.

Avoid Jargon and Acronyms
You will also need to consider your personas familiarity with the subject area. Again “It’s not about you”, unless you are designing for a very limited audience, jargon and acronyms should be avoided.  Most government websites have guidelines on writing in “plain language” to convey information easily and unambiguously.  However we still see archival sites that include references to the GMD or to the General Material Designation.  Think about walking up to someone in the street and asking them if they understand what this term means! 

Spelling Matters
Spelling is a huge issue.  Too many times we’ve looked through search logs and seen searches that result in zero hits as the search terms were spelt incorrectly.  Think for example about medical terms and how to cater to the public that might be looking for Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Lots of potential to spell this wrong, but worse, you might have indexed relevant items under the medical term of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or the abbreviation ALS or A.L.S.!   Many modern search interfaces now feature Did You Mean spell checking, but maybe you also need to seed the indexes with lists of synonyms or common misspellings of proper names found in the collection. 

It’s all too easy to make assumptions about your end users abilities and their knowledge of web searching techniques. Let us guide you through the process of designing your new search interface based on our knowledge of best practices. We’ll try to tactfully remind you that “it’s not about you”! Contact us to discuss the possibilities today.

Introducing a brand new service – video tutorials!

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, October 21, 2015 12:57 PM

We've been thinking about end users a lot lately, and how we can help improve their experiences with the web interfaces that we develop. We've always offered support to our clients, but wanted to also help our clients help theirs.

We are pleased to now offer the production of high quality end user training videos for our products and solutions. Videos can be made to provide help on any of the products that we offer, such as the Andornot Discovery Interface, VuFind, Andornot Starter Kits, Inmagic Genie, DB/TextWorks and Presto.

Our short, focussed videos give your end users a walk through of the major features of your search interface using your data. These allow users to learn much more quickly than reading through help files as they can actually see what the steps are to conduct an effective search.

The videos can also target different levels of searching. If your end users tend to be casual users, we can create a video that introduces them to the basics of searching—navigating the search interface, entering search terms, and using facets, for example – with other videos available for more advanced users conducting in-depth research.


The examples above are just a few of the videos we have produced for some of our own search interfaces. Our video training solutions are not limited to just our own applications. We can develop video tutorials for pretty much anything. We've seen the many ways that different end users try and accomplish tasks, and can help you help them navigate through the information resources they use daily.

Finished videos can be distributed via a YouTube channel, as we've done with the above, embedded in a search application, as we've done with, added to your intranet, or almost any other means you choose.

Recording a video can be challenging! Choosing the software to use, writing a script, recording and editing the final result, and then publishing it online all takes time. We have the tools, expertise and time to do this. We would always work with you to determine the aspects of your site or the records that you wish to showcase.

Why not let us help you make sure your end users can get the most from your online search interfaces! Contact us to discuss the possibilities today.

Tags: Training | video

Andornot Newsletter for September 2015 Now Available

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, September 08, 2015 3:41 PM

Our September 2015 newsletter has been emailed to subscribers and is available to read here.

In this issue:

  • A Round-up of Andornot's Summer Projects to Inspire You
  • Meet with Andornot at Upcoming Conferences and Events
  • Tips and Tricks: Upgrading to DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher PRO version 15
  • Tweets: Round-up of Library, Archive and Museum News

Contact us to subscribe to the emailed version.

Tags: newsletters

How to open local files from DBTextWorks search results

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, September 02, 2015 2:26 PM

Suppose you have a field called FileLink in a database, and you have a collection of PDFs or similar documents on your network. And suppose you want to catalogue these, enter the name of the PDF in the FileLink field, and then in DB/TextWorks search results, have the file name appear as a link that you can click to open the file.

Here's how to do this:

1. Open your Display Form (the one used to show all records) or a Report Form (usually used for brief results) in the Form Designer.

2. Right click on the FileLink field (or add it first if it's not there) and select Box Properties.

3. Select the Format tab, then the Added Text subtab.

4. In the 'Beginning Text' field, enter '<file://' (without quotes) and just a closing angle bracket > in Ending Text, like this:

5. Apply your changes, save the form, and return to your database.

6. Create a new record and in the FileLink field, right click and choose Browse Files. Browse to the location of the file. For example, if the file is on a network server called DOCUMENTS, in a folder called Reports, browse to \\DOCUMENTS\Reports and select the document (e.g. \\DOCUMENTS\Reports\Report123.pdf).

7. When you now search the database and view the full record, the above data will appear with <file:// in front and a closing >, like this:


as shown in the image below.

8. You should be able to click this and open the file (assuming you have a PDF reader app in this case).

As always, contact us for help doing this or making other changes to your DB/TextWorks databases.

Nova Scotia Barristers' Society Migrates to VuFind Discovery Interface

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4:40 PM

Andornot was pleased to help Nova Scotia Barristers' Society Library & Information Services migrate several of their web-based library search interfaces to the VuFind discovery interface this summer. 

The NSBS Library has used Inmagic DB/TextWorks for many years to manage a variety of databases, including a library catalogue. Inmagic WebPublisher was previously used to search some of those, and remains available for a few other databases, but now a new VuFind interface provides a single search across:

  • texts, case law reporters, legislation, forms & precedents collections, and other print material;
  • online resources licensed for in-library use; and
  • continuing professional development papers in full-text.

The new catalogue is available at

Features such as spelling corrections and search suggestions, relevancy ranked results (with more recent items boosted higher in results), and facets to narrow searches provide the features users expect in a web search application.

The design of the new VuFind site was customized to match as closely as possible the main Society website, for a seamless transition between the two. The site adapts to the user's browser, so it's just as usable on a tablet or phone as in a desktop browser.

The initial response from library users has been very positive. 

"I've spoken to quite a few library users who've tried it and are really pleased. Find it really user-friendly. We have gotten emails from lawyers who have clearly discovered an interesting sounding resource via the catalogue and want to know more (is it in-library use only or can they borrow...). Some lawyers also got on board right away with signing up for a user account so that they could use the results management tools, like sending selected results as an email list to us, asking if resources are available." – Deborah Copeman, Librarian, NSBS

The NSBS Library joins a growing number of specialized libraries adopting discovery interfaces to search their collections. While public and academic libraries have offered this more modern style of search to their users for many years, smaller libraries are now able to join them with systems such as VuFind and our own Andornot Discovery Interface.

Contact us to discuss improvements to your library information and online search applications.

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