The British Library website

I notice that the British Library has redesigned its website. It now highlights a search for BL resources: allowing a single search across the website, catalogues, journal articles for delivery, and digitized collections. This is an interesting high profile example of the desire to offer readers more unified access across the range of collections available. Which moves beyond the silo based approaches that owe as much to historic practice as user interest (look here for the catalog, over there for digital collections, and over here for journal articles).

Comments: 4

Feb 23, 2007
Peter Murray

Interesting, but it would have been more exiting (I think) if they had found a way to put all of the search results together. As it is, the search is conducted across the four silos of content and presented to the user in four discrete sections on the results web page.

I wonder if they conducted usability testing on it, and if that usability testing showed the current results display mode was preferred over a "mashed up" results set. Know anyone to whom the question could be posed?

Feb 24, 2007
Lorcan Dempsey

Peter, I think that there are a variety of things one might say about how they have done this (and see Chris Armstrong). Clearly they have issues with legacy data from different sources.

I think it is a good step to put access to the collections up front in this way.

Feb 26, 2007
Brian Kefford

Peter, we did usability testing on a prototype, internal workshops to refine the concept, and two further round of usability testing to produce the final version. One of the main findings from the testing was that users preferred to see a small number of results, grouped under each resource, so that they could decide which resources they wanted to explore further. Users were very pleased and surprised by the breadth of resources that were surfaced by searching across several resources at once.

Mar 15, 2007
Peter Murray

Thanks, Brian and Lorcan. I'm somewhat surprised that the grouped results tested so high -- but, after all, that is what usability testing with actual users is all about. Now I'm curious to see if this holds true for our users in a similar circumstance.