pretty new OPAC
Nice, isn’t it? It’s an interface that we’re pretty proud of (I’m on the UI group) and there’s quite a bit of functionality that makes it far sweeter than what we were used to. Some tidbits:
- Our catalogue used to be called “MORRIS” but we dropped the name in favour of, well, “Library Catalogue” (complete with Canadian spelling, of course). We did this based on the fact that we’re pretty much over cutesy names for search tools, but also based on feedback from users.
- It’s browsable like never before, but then that’s what we’ve come to expect from Endeca-powered search, right? The guided navigation on an average search results page has increased functionality enormously, it truly does make searching (and finding!) a pleasure. The interface you see when you first visit the catalogue page also has multiple browsing options, everything from subject, to language, to author, to location (and more). Personally (and this is just my opinion), I’m still torn over the decision to present all those options right up front (before a search has been entered), mostly because I’m not sure that giving users more options is necessarily a good thing. On the other hand, guided navigation is one of the selling points of an Endeca-powered search in the first place, so it seems a shame not to present those options wherever possible. For now, we’ve decided on the latter, mostly based on use case scenarios, but, like I said, I’m still torn – is it useless clutter or useful functionality? I’m looking forward to usability testing to inform this one (we’ve done a bit, we plan to do more).
- One word: typeahead. When the user starts typing a search term, suggestions appear below the search box in drop-down menu format. The suggestions are culled from title, author and subject MARC fields. It’s super useful, but we still need to tweak a couple of things (there’s a tiny bit of lag; we have to re-look at prioritizing the queried fields so that the most suitable suggestions rise to the top; and a couple of minor design issues). The other concern is that during the minimal usability testing we did do, we observed one user waiting for the typeahead suggestions to come up before hitting the “GO” button (or the “Return” key), which made us think that maybe he didn’t realize that he could go ahead and execute the search even if nothing (or nothing appropriate) appeared in the typeahead menu. This might be something that can be cleared up with a couple of design tweaks (adding the word “Suggestions” to the top of the typeahead suggestion list, for example), and will also probably be informed by more usability testing.
- Another word: AJAX. Clicking on any title in the results list will bring up an AJAX layer that contains all the bibliographic data for that item. The cool-factor here is high, but how usable is it? We’re still not sure (or maybe it’s just me who isn’t sure). Currently, we’ve got the layer coded such that it will disappear after a few seconds when you mouse away from it, which can be either extremely useful or annoyingly frustrating. On the other hand, I’m not sure that requiring a click to close the layer is the way to go either (there is a click-to-close button at the top-right corner of the layer for those who don’t want to wait). Then there’s the design element – does it clutter up the screen too much? Would a lighbox effect be useful at all or would that be too over-the-top design-wise? Still work to be done here obviously, and we’ll likely run it all through (you guessed it) usability before making any final decisions.
- Search within results: how did we ever live without this feature? I find myself asking this question every time I help a user with a catalogue search. We’re still experimenting with the placement of the “search within results” function (you have to perform a search to see where we’ve placed it), but in terms of functionality, I pretty much can’t live without it.
Many of these tweaks, as well as more usability testing obviously, will happen over the next few weeks/months, so it’s still very much a work in progress. If you get a chance to give it a whirl, do pop back here and leave a comment, we’d love to know what you think!