Wednesday, 27 January 2016

New look for YorSearch

Julie Allinson discusses the upcoming changes to YorSearch and the reasons behind the redesign.

On Monday 8 February 2016 we’ll be applying a new design to YorSearch - the Library’s discovery interface for finding and accessing a wide range of our resources. This work forms part of a programme of work under our ‘Digital Discovery’ project. When we started the project, we initially ruled out a site redesign, wanting to identify the real problems rather than put a fresh coat of paint over old cracks.

We then spent some time gathering and analysing feedback, and working with users to identify solutions. Our approach is described by my colleague, Kirstyn, in an earlier post.

From this we identified a range of issues with the layout and design of the site which suggested some work on the site design was needed. Comments from users included:

  • “visual interface is just HORRIBLE”
  • “the number of results visible per page could be increased”
  • “Poor layout of search result box, clunky system.”
  • “I find navigation a bit taxing”

We also identified an American university who had developed a new skin for the same software that powers YorSearch and better still, they had made the code available for anyone to use.

The main things the redesign is intended to achieve are:

  • results displayed more cleanly, with better use of whitespace
  • reducing ‘clutter’ and removing unnecessary/duplicate information on pages
  • using appropriate graphical cues to help highlight specific features
  • using more of the screen width to make better use of larger screens, whilst at the same time . . .
  • improving the display and usability on mobiles and tablets
  • applying plain English and consistent use of terminology throughout the site

Although this new design doesn’t change any of the underlying functionality of YorSearch, we believe it does improve the user experience for the reasons listed above.
New YorSearch design - mobile view

The redesign hasn’t been done in isolation. We’ve worked with a group of users to test proposed changes and we’ve also been making improvements to the system as and when issues arrive. One example, that a search for “post-war” did not return results for “postwar”, highlighted an issue we had not been aware of and was quickly remedied.

However, issues do remain and there are areas of the site that are more difficult to fix. For example, the display of complex location information can still be confusing, particularly when several volumes are located across the Minster Library, King’s Manor and the Morrell. Unfortunately you can’t currently view this information in a single list - a frustration for those whose resources are often spread across the three sites. Overall, we hope that our users will agree that the new design is a great improvement and makes YorSearch easier to use and quicker to navigate.

This is not the end, though - our system supplier continues to improve the software with regular upgrades and we're working on aspects of the site that we can enhance. Lastly, I cannot stress enough the value of feedback from our users. If something doesn’t work the way you expect, or you are confused about how to find something, please tell us.

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