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One of the more common questions that I get from prospects and customers alike is why don’t we bring back all results from each of the sources that we federate? Just earlier in the week one of the librarians at one of our newest customers asked this question. I went back to our blog archive and dug up this wonderful blog article that Darcy wrote in 2015 – Getting the Best Results vs. Getting all of the Results and sent it on to our customer. I love it when I can answer a customer or prospect question by sending them a link to a blog article that answers their question.
So this afternoon I decided to expand a bit on Darcy’s original blog article.
In an effort at transparency and to inform our users of the status of searching, the user can look at Search Status popup that displays the list of sources searched with the number of results returned and the number of results found at the source (when the source provides this information). This Search Status popup is a link under the progress bar in the upper left hand corner of the Results page – the text of the link indicates the count of all sources involved in the search, e.g., “54 of 54 sources complete.”
Viewing the Search Status popup, the user can see, for a broad query, e.g., security, that collectively the sources may have available several hundred to thousands of results while we only retrieved up to the first 100 results. It does beg the question of why we can’t bring back all the results.
So let us for a moment go directly to one of the more popular sources that we federate — PubMed, a very large database of 20 million medical articles (some full-text but mostly just meta-data).
Doing the following PubMed searches:
“myocardial infarction” — returns 213,186 results
“myocardial infarction” AND aspirin — returns 7,395 results
“myocardial infarction” AND aspirin AND statins — returns 542 results
Even with the most specific of the above queries, PubMed still returned 542 results, more results than most users will review, and certainly more than we would like to return from a source. However, we could retrieve the 542 result if we wanted to.
The above example illustrates one of my main responses to the question – Why do we not bring back all results? – What I say is that instead of focusing on Explorit Everywhere! bringing back more results, the focus should be on users realizing that the issue is to be more precise in their queries so that they are getting the most relevant results. It is not very useful to get all the results if they do not help the user find the answer they are looking for. Doing a broad search like “myocardial infarction” that found 213,186 results is not as helpful as doing a more precise search like “myocardial infarction” AND aspirin AND statins” with its 542 results. In the more precise search, the user is more likely to find a relevant answer.
In conclusion, when users issue more precise queries, they will find that Explorit Everywhere! returns most or all of the available results at each source, with the results ranked using our secret sauce so the user can quickly and easily find what they were looking for across all available sources. For the case where more results are available at the source and the user needs to examine all results (perhaps they are doing some legal due diligence) then the user can go directly to the source and conduct the search there.
To make Explorit Everywhere! more accessible, we have leveraged the Web Content Accessible Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) accessibility guidelines provided by the W3C’s (World Wide Web Consortium—an international standards body to ensure the interoperability between web products. Accessibility refers to making sure that the design of products is usable for the widest range of abilities, such as for persons with different visual abilities, hearing abilities, or physical abilities.
Often the phrase “Section 508 compliance” is used in conjunction with ensuring accessibility, especially by government agencies. Section 508, which refers specifically to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was amended in 1986, was passed to make sure that the Federal Government provides accessible electronic and information technologies to its employees—including computers, telecommunications, and so on, as well as access to web-based intranet and internet web pages and applications. More recently, though, the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 was passed to make sure that any state that receive Federal funding also adhere to some form of the Section 508 requirement.
WCAG 2.0 was written specifically for web content and web pages. It also leverages the same goals expressed in Section 508. In the WCAG 2.0, it has three priority levels of checkpoints where Priority 1 checkpoints must be met, Priority 2 should be satisfied, and Priority 3 may be addressed as part of compliance. In Explorit Everywhere!, we have confirmed that we meet most all of Priority 1 when applicable, many of Priority 2, and some of Priority 3 checkpoints. To better understand what changes we have made to meet these checkpoints, I am going to leverage WCAG 2.0’s four fundamental principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
For the first principle, Perceivable, we have striven to make all components of the user interface evident on our web pages; that is, nothing is hidden. We have also used common iconography rather than inventing new ones that might not be understood so well. For each UI component, we have provided text alternatives, which includes both visual hover-overs on the pages and text alternatives for blind readers. And, based on UX feedback, we have rearranged the structure of the components so that the relationship between them makes more sense to the user or programmatically. Moreover, the meaning of our UI components are not meant to be contextual—that is, they are self-contained, nor are they dependent on color to convey meaning. We do use color contrasts to make the different components stand out more.
For our customer University of the Arts, London (UAL), being a specialized school for the arts, we have extended our application even further for their users by offering a selection of color themes for a user to select from, which is then saved to the user’s preferences (see Figure 1). These different options are designed specifically to make the interface more visually perceivable for different visual needs. UAL also asked that we add the ability to resize the text on the web page directly (as opposed to relying on the browser). These functions are available to any customer who wants to further extend their accessibility to offer more support.
For the Operable principle, we have focused on: keyboard accessibility, timing between functions, and navigable. The most basic operable support is to support keyboard access to all UI components, and to avoid any keyboard traps, that is, getting to a component that cannot be moved away from using the keyboard. Moreover, moving through the components does not require any specific timing for individual keystrokes. And, we have ensured that when initially landing on any page, there is a focused component for commencing keyboard navigation. When applicable, we offer more than one way to view results and to do certain functions since not all users do things the same way. One area for improvement that we intend to implement in the near future is the ability to jump pass entire blocks of content while keyboarding.
For the third principle, Understandable, we have ensured that Explorit Everywhere! is readable, predictable, and supportive of user involvement. While we believe we have made all the UI components readable and predictable, there is more work to do in making application errors more evident. For readability, we have reduced jargon, kept explanations simple, and avoided abbreviations. Predictability means not letting components randomly change in any way unless initiated by the user. This includes making sure that navigation and UI components are consistent across all functions. We have also expanded user preferences to allow users to save specific UI changes, and we intend to do offer more preferences to users in future releases.
The last principle, Robust, refers to supporting assistive technologies. Besides extending the keyboard accessibility, we have also reviewed our application in blind readers by making sure that our textual labels both as alt text and as hover-overs are accessible.
We believe that Explorit Everywhere! is even more perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust than ever!
In a January Sneak Peek blog article Darcy gave us a preview of some of what my engineers were working on. Now, I am excited to present to you faceted navigation, one of the coolest ever features added to Explorit Everywhere!
In an excerpt from Peter Morville’s Search Patterns (a classic on designing effective search focused User Interfaces published in 2010), Morville quotes Professor Marti Hearst (from UC Berkeley) as saying,
“Faceted Navigation is arguably the most significant search innovation of the past decade.”
Morville describes faceted navigation simply: “It features an integrated, incremental search and browse experience that lets users begin with a classic keyword search and then scan a list of results” (p. 95).
Our faceted navigation, combined with our clustering technology offers the researcher a more refined approach for zooming in to find the most relevant results from their search. When reviewing the cluster facets, which show other related terms to the search query, the researcher can narrow their results by selecting a Topic. With the Topic selected, the clusters are refreshed using those associated Topic results, and the researcher is presented with new facets only related to that selected Topic. It cuts out the noise, and allows the user to review very specific results.
Let’s now take a look at how faceted navigation works on one of our customer solutions at the University of the Arts, London.
We will start with a search for “Michelangelo” which returns 2,785 results (See Figure 1 above). And in the Topics list of clusters, we can see that there are several related topics: Art, Artist, Design, Sistine Chapel, David, Analysis, and so forth. These topics were derived from the results metadata returned from the 50 databases searched simultaneously.
By selecting the topic facet Sistine Chapel, the cluster facets were re-generated using the 81 results for that topic (See Figure 2). With this new view of the selected results, we now see more specific topics related primarily to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. While the topic of Ceiling Frescos looks interesting, I am curious to focus on the images under the facet Document Type.
As the researcher explores their results, our faceted navigation generates “bread crumbs” that record the drill-down of steps taken. In Figure 3, we see the trail of selections we have made so far. Clicking on > Sistine Chapel will let me step back up, and step down into the Ceiling Frescos when I want to. See Figure 4 below for some of the interesting images I found of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
The Professional Services department at Deep Web Technologies is extending its Account Management efforts to assist our customers in getting the most out of their Explorit Everywhere! (EE!) service. As with most any software service, it is possible to use its basic features easily, and EE! is no exception. Everyone who has EE! can do searches, review results, and create alerts with ease. But, we also all know that to really get the most out of any technology, it needs to become part of our habits. And for EE! that means having it available where you need it whenever you have a question or an information need. After all, while Google has become a habit for many, EE!, with its high quality, authoritative, and often expensive sources purchased by our customers for their users, needs to be that habit for those information needs and questions that Google can’t easily answer.
Explorit Everywhere! has several features that can help customers integrate their search application into their website. That way it’s there for their users wherever they need it. And folks at DWT want to help. Three quick and easy ways to better integrate your EE! searcher include:
- Add a link to your EE! Quick Search or Advanced Search page from a menu, icon, or text on different pages on your website.
- Integrate the EE! Quick Search Widget box on any website page, which will allow users to search from where they are. Then a new browser window or tab will open with the results. The widget is part of every EE! application.
- If your organization has specialized departments or research groups, then we recommend they use Search Builder. The Explorit Everywhere! Search Builder feature, available through the EE! menu and requiring an account, allows a department admin, research lead, or any faculty to create a search widget specific to their group’s information needs by selecting databases and search fields specific for that group. Then that tailored search widget can be placed on any web page. See how one of our customers, University of the Arts, London integrated Search Builder into their Lib Guide Subject pages.
Another part of DWT’s Account Management campaign is to help our customers fine-tune their Explorit
Everywhere! service so that the quality of results meets their users’ needs. As we all know, while there are hundreds, if not, thousands of information databases, they all perform differently and provide a wide range of data. And the advantage of EE! is its ability to bring all those results from multiple databases together. So, given that your databases may be a combination of medical, news, journals, or other informational websites, we can help you tune your application so your searches display the most meaningful data.
In the coming months, here are a couple of different things we will be doing behind-the-scenes to make your EE! searcher work better for your users:
- We recently added the means to fine-tune how the first page of results are generated. As part of our Account Management services, we will be reviewing your EE! service to ensure that those first results are the highest ranking results.
- In addition to our daily monitoring of your connectors to make sure they are working, we will be doing periodical reviews to make sure we are optimizing them for quality results. Sources often add new search fields and new results data. For example, we have been incorporating the ability to search using journal DOI or PubMed ID numbers in the Full Record field in EE!, which includes the Quick Search box. Our goal is to make sure your EE! service makes the most of the source.
Lastly, we will be asking our customers to fill out a short survey to facilitate more discussion so we can better understand how to help make Explorit Everywhere! be the best service possible. We also look forward to having more conference calls with our customers. Ultimately, we want our customers’ users to best use EE! to fulfill their information needs.
This past weekend I was writing an email message to one of our new customers. I was sending this customer, as promised,
some example uses of Search Builder, our Explorit Everywhere! tool that makes it easy to create custom search widgets that can be dropped on any web page.
I started my quest for Search Builder widgets by going to the library website of one of our favorite customers, the University of the Arts, London (UAL). UAL is one of our favorite customers, in part, because they do a lot to promote Explorit Everywhere! to their faculty and students across their 6 colleges.
I digress, but last December (2015) I had the pleasure to attend the User Conference for one of our partners, PTFS Europe, and at this conference Paul Mellinger, Discovery Manager at the UAL Library gave a wonderful presentation on their implementation of Explorit Everywhere! and followed that with a guest article on the Customer Corner section of our company blog.
Back to the task at hand, I went to UAL’s Library Subject Guides page and found that they have created 39 subject guides on subjects such as Beauty and Cosmetic Sciences, Graphic Design and Jewellery, subjects that parallel the way that they have organized the sources that we federate for them. If you go into many of these subject guides then click on the e-Resources tab you’ll see at the top left of the page an Articles Plus Search widget (this is what UAL calls Explorit Everywhere!). Each of the widgets on the various e-Resources pages searches a different, appropriate subset of all the sources that we federate for them.
Then to top it off, I came across the Articles Plus Help subject guide (which I had not seen before), a wonderful guide, nicely organized into tabs for Simple Search, Advanced Search, Search Results and Tools and Navigation. Also added recently to this subject guide is a 3 and a half minute video tutorial on Articles Plus. This is why we love UAL!!
Problem – Your Explorit Everywhere! solution (particularly at academic institutions) is typically setup to search a wide spectrum of sources that aren’t always relevant to every researcher or student. Special groups (e.g. the Chemistry Department, the Psychology 101 course, or the High Energy Physics Division within a research lab) may prefer to search only a handful of resources, and don’t want to be overwhelmed by results from irrelevant sources. Sound familiar?
Our elegant solution – Explorit Everywhere! Search Builder
Each Explorit Everywhere! application comes loaded with Search Builder, a search engine creation tool designed to create custom search engines that only search the specific sources your user group needs. For example, an instructor teaching a class on Computer Programming may want students to research responsive design using four selected resources. Rather than tutoring the class in how to use their Explorit Everywhere! Advanced Search and limit the search to the four relevant resources, the instructor can simply create a search engine designed for his students that only search those resources the students should search. Then, he can place a search box to this new engine on his course page to make it even easier for his students.
There are some Deep Web Technologies customers that create, use, and market only Search Builder engines engines that only search the specific sources your user group needs. For example, an instructor teaching a class on Computer Programming may want students to research responsive design using four selected resources. Rather than tutoring the class in how to use their Explorit Everywhere! Advanced Search and limit the search to the four relevant resources, the instructor can simply create a search engine designed for his students that only search those resources the students should search. Then, he can place a search box to this new engine on his course page to make it even easier for his students.
Search Builder can create unlimited search engines for one person, groups, teams or even enterprises. Admins can build search engines for each department, students can create their own search portal with a personalized search box, professors can modify search engines for their classes, and teams can search the most relevant resources and delve into their critical materials most efficiently.
Search Builder can be integrated into:
- Learning Management Systems
- Corporate Portal
- CRM Systems
Help your researchers be be efficient – Use Search Builder. And, if your organization uses one of the pesky Discovery Services which don’t allow, or at least don’t make it easy to limit your search to relevant resources, Search Builder is a great reason to switch to Explorit Everywhere!
In the United States, most of our public websites are in English. We’re used to searching, clicking to our result and reading the web page instructions, navigation and results in English. And, if we happen to run across a page that is in a different language, most browsers will translate the page to English so we can continue our research.
This on-demand approach works for random, public websites researchers encounter, but not for steadfast Explorit Everywhere! users who regularly use Explorit Everywhere! as their main search application to retrieve information from diverse sources. Researchers starting from Explorit Everywhere! should begin from a personalized application that notches up their level of comfort so that the tools and the sources are exactly what they need to find results quickly and efficiently.
For organizations with speakers of multiple languages, Deep Web Technologies offers both a localized user interface as well as multilingual translation capabilities. While they often go hand in hand, they are not always packaged together.
- A Localized User Interface displays text in a user’s native language, including navigational text, help text, menus and application tool and tooltips. Localization does not translate results. The localized language or languages are determined when an application is created. If there are multiple languages to choose from, a user can determine what they want to be their default localized interface language after they have logged in to an application.
- A Multilingual Application performs on-the-fly translations of results from the source language to a user’s preferred language. For example, English language sources of information will return English to the Explorit Everywhere! application, regardless of a user’s localized interface language. The multilingual feature will translate results from other languages into a selected language.
You can see why these two features may accompany each other in many applications; together, they provide a seamless search experience. However, user interface localization provides a level of user comfort to multilingual researchers regardless of what language the results return in. Navigating the search application, entering queries and browsing text is much easier and faster when performed in native languages.
Explorit Everywhere! supports seven major languages at this point: Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. 2016 will expand localization options for Explorit Everywhere! applications by introducing support of Arabic right to left text.
A localized user interface creates a fluid research path, bypassing language barriers that may obstruct an intuitive search. To see an example of localization and multilingual translation, please visit WorldWideScience.org.
What makes a search app easy to use? Lots of things, such as intuitive navigation, a sleek interface, tooltips, and…personalization. Sometimes spending the extra time making an app “yours” is exactly what it takes to make the app more “usable.”
For example, the first thing I do when I find a new start page or website that I’ll be using robustly every day is to personalize it. I add in the widgets that I know will help me out on my quest for efficiency. I change the colors to reflect my mood. I alter the text to cue me to next actions. When I tailor apps to my tastes, I inevitable use them more because they are more comfortable to use.
At Deep Web Technologies, we want our customers to feel comfortable with their Explorit Everywhere! applications. We tailor your application to your organization’s style, administrative and researcher’s needs – make it the search application your organization needs to use it comfortably and use regularly.
We have many customers who spend the time to tailor their applications to their researcher’s preferences or organization’s style.
Here’s an example of a unique customization recently implemented:
I had the opportunity to try it out. Within seconds, a librarian was online chatting with me. When done, I received a transcript of our conversation and was pleasantly surprised at the “human” element of the search page. VDOT had personalized their Explorit Everywhere! application in a way that created comfort, provided excellent service and immediately connected the user to the library.
“We were pleased that Deep Web Technologies was responsive to our need to integrate another vendor’s chat software into our federated search solution. We tested in a developmental environment first, saw no problems, and brought it into our live site right on schedule,” said Ken Winter, Associate Library Director, VDOT Research Library. “The result is that if our patrons using Deep Web have a question, they can initiate a live chat with library staff and get answers in seconds.”
Our customer successes are our successes. Whether it’s adding google analytics to track users, a custom thesaurus, plugging in different widgets for document delivery or a chat widget, we’ll help you to tailor your application so that your users can best take advantage of Explorit Everywhere! to find information quickly.
Explorit Everywhere! supports all kinds of fancy search logic, such as Boolean operators, nested parenthesis and advanced search fields. This is a big selling point for organizations with researchers who want to search for a precise bit of information, retrieve a small result set, and then narrow that set of results even further with filters and sorts.
Serious researchers know where their information might be hiding, how to search for their information, and what search string may bump their information out of the source and into their lap. Using Explorit Everywhere! can save these researchers time and effort; one search across all of the resources they need to examine takes just a quick click of the search button.
Researchers familiar with a wide range of resources also know that some database search engines are stuck in the stone age. These engines simply do not process advanced logic such as parenthesis, wildcards, many advanced search fields or even Boolean operators. When researchers search these directly, they must use basic search strings to even retrieve results at all. For these engines, searching with broad queries, and iteratively searching and reviewing results is just part of the package. In contrast, a few modern search engines can handle extremely complex queries, replete with parenthesis, quotations, and Booleans and wildcards, handing the user a golden platter of relevant results.
Explorit Everywhere! usually includes both types of sources, with search engines supporting the very simple to the most complex queries. When a user submits a search string, Explorit Everywhere! must first evaluate the query. The resource connector, a bit of code that submits the query string from Explorit Everywhere! to the source, is programmed to “know” the source parameters and limitations. The connector acts as a proxy for the researcher by submitting the query to the resource, then retrieving the results for Explorit Everywhere! to rank against results from other sources. In many cases, the query string is submitted to the source exactly as it was entered by the user. In other cases, however, the query must be reshaped to make the string more acceptable to source idiosyncrasies. And, although Explorit Everywhere! connectors are very good at understanding how a source work and optimizing the query to submit to the source, there is only so much they can do when faced with a complex query and a Neanderthal source. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
To ensure consistent results retrieval, complex queries may not be the best place to start a search. If a complex search through Explorit Everywhere! yields results from only a few sources, researchers should consider rephrasing a query into simpler terms. To ferret information out of selected sources, including the more primitive sources, start with a simpler search to retrieve a broad results set from most or all of the selected resources.
Once the results are retrieved, researchers can view the whole playing field – all the results, across all of their resources. Starting from this vantage point, the informed researcher can narrow that field with laser precision, using filters, sorts, tabs and clustering, or iterate their search based on their initial findings.
Of course, users can still search with complex Boolean strings, taping together a montage of brackets and parenthesis with a patchwork of wildcards and quotations. Explorit Everywhere! will dutifully perform a search and no doubt return results, often with great success. For those elusive results, consider broadening the search query, and narrowing the results set after all sources have returned their results successfully. While this process may seem backward and less efficient initially, it ultimately delves deeper into those entrenched databases containing pertinent information.
As much as we like to think that Explorit Everywhere! is simple to use, it still holds the junior heavyweight championship title for feature-rich technologies. Throw on top of that the concepts of “federated search”, “Deep Web”, and “discovery services”, and it’s easy to get lost in a maze of information. Since Deep Web Technologies is all about pulling the needle out of the haystack for you, we thought it was time to create an easy reference post on the world of Explorit Everywhere!. Want to know where you can find out about how we rank results? How about federated search or the Deep Web? Take a gander through some of these posts:
Explorit Everywhere! Features
- Clusters that Think
- Explorit Everywhere! Goes Mobile
- The Art and Science of Deduping Results
- Connectors: Federated Search’s Strength or Achilles Heel?
- Getting the Best Results vs. Getting All of the Results
- Alerts: Automatic, Efficient and Connected
- Analyze This!
- A Little Thing Called “Source Order”
- Explorit now features visual clustering
- Ranking: The Secret Sauce for Searching the Deep Web
- Federated Search Finds Content that Google Can’t Reach – Part I of III
- A Federated Search Primer – Part II of III
- A Federated Search Primer – Part III of III
- Do You Mean Federated Search?
- No Alternative to Federated Search
- Next-generation federated search
- The Origins of Federated Search
The Deep Web
- The “Deep Web” is not all Dark
- Relying on Google for Science Information is Bad for Your Health
- Deep Web: Legal Due Diligence
- Google: The World’s Greatest Marketing Company
- The Deep Web isn’t all drugs, porn, and murder
- Discovering Discovery Services
- Discovery Services: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- Discovery Services: Overhyped and Underperformed
- Is Vendor-Neutral Searching Important?
- 3 Reasons an Indexed Discovery Service Doesn’t Work For Serious Researchers
- Is Speed Worth It?