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New Search Box for the Home Page

By Michael Yunkin on January 28, 2014 10:19 AM | Permalink

Hello Library All!

The Usability Committee is recommending a change in the design of the search box on the Libraries home page in order to improve user experience.

You may recall that usability testing of the Libraries redesigned (current) home page in 2012 showed that students did not use the dropdown menu next to the search box to limit their searches. Instead, they simply used the default search (Summon) whether or not that was appropriate. Using the data from these tests, John Murphy created several mockups of a potential new search tool.

In the Summer and Fall of 2013, graduate students and faculty were shown the current design -- where they repeated the behavior noted in previous usability testing -- and the new mockups. Feedback was gathered on the old and new designs, and a single mockup (with some adjustments) was chosen as the best search option to help users discover the materials they need.

A new round of usability testing was performed in Fall of 2013 on the new mockup, and results were generally successful. The results of these tests are available on the Staff Website, along with the testing videos: http://staff/index.php/Usability_Reports#Search_Box_Mockups_Usability_Te... (available only from within the Libraries, or via VPN).

The mockup that was tested and that the Committee is recommending is available for your using pleasure at http://staff/stuff/usability1/forced.html . Note that it looks very similar to the current design, but that it behaves very differently.

Any and all feedback is appreciated!

- The Usability Committee


Submitted by Heather Johnson (not verified) on
I very much like the dropdown menu to select Quick Search, the library catalog, and library information. Also, the links for databases and reserves saves time looking for those links on the library home page. They stand out. My concern is that students were not using dropdown menus before, so why would they use a dropdown menu now? My other concern is that the arrow for the dropdown menu is a bit small. Overall, I think it's an improvement! I like the question mark towards the right of the search box. This helps clarify the functions of each selection. I like how the information is quick, and not in paragraph-form. Brief, overview.
Submitted by Amanda Melilli (not verified) on
I agree with Heather! The databases and reserves links are a great addition! I too, however, am a bit confused on the intuitive nature of the small drop down icon if the problem was that people weren't using a drop down option before. Is there an explanation for the specific reason why this one works better than the old? Also: We noticed at the CML that the ? to the right of the search box does not appear in every browser!
Submitted by myunkin on
The small drop down icon is (hopefully) irrelevant, as the drop down behavior happens automatically when patrons click in the search box. In the usability tests, 5 of 7 students who used the search box also used a limiter on their search. In usability tests with the old, non-automatic dropdown, zero people used a limiter. The problem we've seen over and over again is that people will ALMOST NEVER use a drop down unless they really have to (this includes the current "Research By Subject" drop down on the home page, by the way). But by having the choices drop down automatically, we've seen vastly increased use of the limiters. If you click in the search box and DON'T automatically see the drop down, please let me know what version of what browser you're using! The question mark was added because of feedback from the interviews last summer. Unfortunately, no one actually clicked on it in the usability tests, but I don't think that means that it will never be useful. I'll test it more completely on other browsers and make sure it shows up all the time. I'm not sure if we've done much testing on the newest version of Internet Explorer, and that's where problems tend to occur the most. As far as the new links above the search box, this was also an addition based on user feedback. But once again, users didn't actually click on them in the usability tests. My impression was that people are already used to using the right-side menu for Databases and Course Reserves. I believe having them in the search box area will help brand new users, though. Thank you for your feedback, and let me know if you want to get together to look at any of this!
Submitted by myunkin on
Sorry for the lack of formatting above!! :-(
Submitted by Web Page Design (not verified) on
Hi Michael, Great job by the Usability Committee for listening and responding to feedback. This new design will help improve user experience even further. If you're interested, here's a post on how to create a well-balanced site design: Keep up the great work, Dennis


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