This was a question (or task) on our last web usability study. And yes, even though our page clearly stated "Enter database name here" above the search box in big bold letters, we watched as those instructions were ignored by many new users unfamiliar with the system.

We have since changed our database locator search tool to Drupal, which will by default do a keyword search on whatever is typed in, instead of limiting it to just the title field. We have found that this helps, since most students who don't know what they are doing on this page usually type in pretty broad keywords, so they most always get a result list of somewhat relevant databases (we reviewed all of our database descriptions to be sure they included good key terms). So when they do see the result list, and its filled with database names, it's at this point they are clued in to the fact that they are searching for a database, not for articles, and may actually find one. The old system that only used the title field, would just say "Sorry  - no results found" and students would just leave.

I like the suggestion of changing the wording on the search button, we may make that change.


-----Original Message-----
From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Susan Teague Rector
Sent: Friday, July 30, 2010 10:27 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] usability question: searching for a database (not in a database)

This screams out 'usability test' to me - even if it's a short 5 minute survey of students as they walk through the door. We know from past usability testing that databases are one of most confusing things on a library web site - I would definitely test your assumptions.

>>> Andreas Orphanides <[log in to unmask]> 07/30/10 9:05 AM >>>
Another thing that could help clarify the role of the search box would be to
have some type-ahead action. This would cue the user as to what it is they are
actually searching for, and also give them an opportunity to skip past the
results screen if they select a full title from the type-ahead. Of course, this
would require a bit more infrastructure to support.


Sarah Weeks wrote:
> Long time lurker, first time poster.
> I have a little usability question I was hoping someone could give me advice
> on.
> I'm updating the databases page on our website and we'd like to add a search
> box that would search certain fields we have set up for our databases
> (title, vendor, etc...) so that even if someone doesn't remember the first
> word in the title, they can quickly find the database they're looking
> through without having to scroll through the whole A-Z list.
> My question is: if we add a search box to our main database page, how can we
> make it clear that it's for searching FOR a database and not IN a database?
> Some of the choices we've considered are:
> Seach for a database:
> Search this list:
> Don't remember the name of the database? Search here:
> I'm not feeling convinced by any of them. I'm afraid when people see a
> search box they're not going to bother reading the text but will just assume
> it's a federated search tool.
> Any advice?
> -Sarah Beth