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.

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

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

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George is compiling a history of a local church.

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

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

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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 billionphotos.com– 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.

Updated search interface for the Interior Health Library Catalog

by Kathy Bryce Monday, August 10, 2015 9:35 AM

The Interior Health library catalog search interface has been given a revamp to modernize the experience and improve the functionality.  The old interface using WebPublisher PRO (figures 1&3) expected users to figure out how to construct their searches in advance.  The new interface (figures 2&4) using the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI) allows users to put in their keywords and then narrow down the hits from the results screen. 

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

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Figure 3

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Figure 4

This, plus the more forgiving search syntax with built in automatic typo and spelling correctionsNewCat3 with “Did you Mean?”  suggestions, will result in an improved search experience for IH staff. In addition the site is now responsive ensuring that it is just as readable on a cell phone or tablet as on a desktop PC.

As before, the new site includes canned search links for special topics and collections, and a more prominent listing of new titles through an embedded RSS feed.  Book covers from Open Library are included automatically  based on the ISBN field if they are available.

Contact Andornot to discuss similar upgrades to your search interfaces.

New search interface for Interior Health - policy and procedure documents, guidelines and protocols.

by Kathy Bryce Monday, June 08, 2015 10:07 AM

Interior Health contacted Andornot to discuss possible options for providing better access to their policy and procedure documents, guidelines and protocols.  These were available in several locations and were indexed in separate PDF’s depending on service area.  Maintenance of this system of indexes was becoming problematic and unsustainable. Interior Health needed an easy to use search interface for clinical staff to quickly find and link to the documents, whether they be on their SharePoint intranet, a vendor site or part of their subscription to Mosby’s Nursing Skills. 

Interior Health already owned a copy of Inmagic DB/TextWorksand the library staff were familiar with it, so we created a new database to catalog these documents.  The intranet search application pulls data from DB/TextWorks and is powered by our Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI) to provide a faceted, discovery style interface geared to be as simple and uncluttered as possible. AnDI features spell checking with Did you mean functionality to catch common misspellings and typos, and staff have added some common acronyms to the records to ensure that documents can be found using nursing jargon.

We were able to extract data from multiple PDF’s and SharePoint lists to build the ClinicalCareFindItinitial database and batch modified records to populate additional fields. As a result, searches can be refined by Interior Health site, practice area, agency responsible, format and keywords.   We also note which source document or manual a specific guideline is part of.  The relevance ranking of the search results was adjusted to ensure that Interior Health (IH) wide documents always appear first. This approach really helps IH staff quickly locate the policy or protocol they are seeking.

Behind the scenes, the database also tracks who developed a document, when it was endorsed, and review dates to allow library staff to better manage the administrative side.  The search interface is hosted by Andornot with access restricted by IP Address to Interior Health staff.

Since the launch the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Comments from nursing staff included:

  • WOW oh WOW.  My brief interaction with the Clinical Care find-it has been an incredible experience so far.  Congratulations!!!!
  • A thing of beauty doesn’t describe this work well enough.  It is definitely the birth of an amazing solution.  I had a look at it yesterday, and it is a very intuitive piece of work.
  • OMG! It IS a thing of beauty.

And from the person responsible for administering the system:

  • As far as managing workload the drudgery of adding links to 5 separate indexes x 3 alternate titles/keywords (so sometimes 15 entries for one link/document!!!!) has been almost eliminated.  Now there is only “ONE” and it’s great!

This project is a good example of how library staff can assist other groups within an organization to better organize and improve access to their information and resources.  Prior to the start of this project Interior Health had looked to develop a new system internally, however library staff were able to convince them to utilize their existing software and Andornot’s expertise and hosting service to create an efficient and easy to use new system.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you provide improved search access to any collection.

Adding dot leaders between columns in a DB/TextWorks report

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, September 30, 2014 5:29 PM

Have you ever tried to create an index report in DB/TextWorks and wanted to have a dots to line up the entries in the two columns? The index entries are invariably different lengths so the number of dots required needs to vary.

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The trick is to add fixed text into the box for the first column – in this case after the title. In the Box Properties set the Paragraphs tab to No added paragraph breaks. The fixed text dots have to have a space between them as in . . . . rather than ……..  This allows any excess dots for long entries to be bumped to the next line.  Under the Position tab then set the Maximum height to 1 line.

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You may need to adjust font size and margins if your index terms are longer than one line.

Contact us if you need help with your Inmagic DB/TextWorks report designs.

Andornot newsletter–September 2014

by Kathy Bryce Friday, September 05, 2014 7:59 PM

Please check out the latest issue of our newsletter.

In this Issue:
  • Canadian Jewish Heritage Network Now Offering a Single Search Across Multiple Data Sources
  • How a Hospital Library and the Local Public Library Partnered to Share Patient Education Materials
  • Meet with Andornot in 2014: Last Few Conferences of 2014
  • Tips and Tricks: Add a Checkout Receipt or Loan Reminder to Inmagic Genie
  • Tweets: Round-up of Library, Archive and Museum News

Please contact us for further information or to be added to our newsletter list.

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