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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.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are web based technologies used to offer online classes. The most common LMS are Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, and Brightspace (previously known as Desire2Learn). And there are many more edging into the market because the idea of providing an online educational portal is really taking off. It’s one of the fastest-growing markets out there!
These LMS are used not only for online classes, but also for the traditional, face-to-face classrooms as an online portal for managing course materials, for offering bulletin boards for online discussions, and for turning in assignments. Given this growing, ubiquitous need for any classroom (including K-12, corporate, etc.) to cultivate an online presence, you would think that one of the central features of these LMS would be to allow for easy incorporation of the library into their online portals since every learning setting has one. But alas, this is far from the truth. In fact, it’s just the opposite. (See Libraries in the Learning Management System, Farkas, 2015)
For most of these LMS, they have no easy user interface modules that allow instructors to include library tools such as access to librarians (e.g., Ask a Librarian), subject focused web pages (e.g., LibGuides), much less a module for students to search the school catalog and the numerous available research databases. Often the best the instructors can offer is a link to the library website as an additional resource. The goal, however, should be to bring the library into these online portals, not have the student leave them.
At Deep Web Technologies, we have been researching how to improve this situation for our customers since the primary goal of our federated search tool, Explorit Everywhere!, is to help librarians provide students with easy, quick, and direct access to their subscription content. We found that for most LMS, if they have tools to support third-party content, it is an additional cost to access these features to incorporate library materials. Then, after the school does add these additional LMS features, the librarian has to do further work to get access to the course management interfaces and do the work to develop these modules. Once all of this is in place, the librarians will most likely need to work with the instructors to coordinate adding their library tools to their course management pages. Obviously, such an ordeal does not scale for the hundreds of instructors at larger institutions.
Every LMS should automatically support incorporating the library as one of their base features. For any LMS, it should be easy for an instructor to configure an Explorit Everywhere! Search widget so students have easy access to the library’s catalog and subscription content. Moveover, the instructor can use the Explorit Everywhere! Search Builder to customize their search widget to search specific course-related databases. Librarians work hard to make their library useful and patron-friendly. Learning Management Systems need to work with them, not put up more barriers.
One little peek can’t hurt, can it? Well, although we’re bursting with excitement about our new features, we don’t want to spoil the surprise – here are just a few enhancements you’ll see in Explorit Everywhere! in 2016.
Part of our 2016 enhancements will focus on Explorit Everywhere! Multilingual (see WorldWideScience.org for an example of Explorit Everywhere! Multilingual). We’ll also be expanding user interface localization so that all text on the page automatically appears in the user’s selected language for a seamless search experience. This will include the Arabic language with full support of right to left display.
The Explorit Everywhere! visualization tools will have some new additions as well. Right now, we have the ever popular text and visual clusters in addition to topics and filters on metadata, authors, dates and formats. We’ll be adding faceted navigation to the mix, allowing you and your researchers to drill down even further into your results set. And, get ready for some new visual tools to aid the researcher.
Last, the MyLibrary feature (save, export or email results) will also allow you to save searches. Stay tuned for updates on this throughout the coming year.
Do you have suggestions for us to add to our list of future additions? Let us know and stay tuned for news as we unveil these features and more!
I recently had a conversation with a VC and he brought up the acronym “SMAC”. SMAC, he explained, stands for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud, and pointed out that these four areas are red-hot with investors now.
In a Forbes, May, 2014 blog article, Ravi Puri, Senior Vice President, North America Oracle Consulting Services defined SMAC and talked about: “The convergence of these trends is creating a coming wave of disruption that will let companies drive improved customer satisfaction, sustainable competitive advantage and significant growth in enterprise value—but only if you are ready for it.”
More recently Casey Galligan, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Market Strategist, advises investors to not shy away from this sector and invest in leading SMAC companies and writes: “We believe that companies levered to these key secular growth areas will continue to be differentiators.”
It is an exciting time to be Deep Web Technologies, as we have been working in a number of these areas for a while now and are poised to make significant contributions to advance the state-of-the-art of all SMAC technology areas directly and through partners in the years ahead. Let me give you some examples:
- Social – At its heart, Explorit Everywhere! connects people to information. That’s one reason that Explorit Everywhere! naturally integrates well with social networking sites. These sites offer rich information to end-users in the form of opinions, rants, new developments, scientific breakthroughs and more. An organization may have a variety of social networks supporting their philosophy and marketing their brand, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and blogs. These social networks are plenty rife with interesting and useful tidbits for marketing folks, researchers, students and other professionals alike. Explorit Everywhere! can search all of these networks for relevant information in five seconds or less. To follow things up, Explorit Everywhere! lets the user share what they’ve found back to their own networks, completing the number one rule of thumb for social networks: share and share alike. Social integration engages users and simplifies the searching and posting to multiple networks by social networking users.
- Mobile – The mobile wave is more than just a fad; it’s the future. As we mentioned in our previous post, Explorit Everywhere! Goes Mobile, when we reach the year 2020 we may see around 50 billion connected devices slinging information around the world. When it comes to mobility, we needed Explorit Everywhere! to be flexible and device-driven, with an ultra-sleek user interface. Advances in mobile technology require that we stay up-to-date, and Explorit Everywhere! accomplishes this through its use of responsive design and vigilance of new devices searching our application.
- Analytics – Explorit Everywhere!’s statistics package has been collecting usage statistics for years now which enable our clients to maximize the ROI of the content that they license. Deep Web Technologies is an expert at gathering information from multiple sources, aggregating the results and categorizing them into concepts that expand the breadth of a researcher’s information. But even beyond that, Explorit Everywhere! can feed collected, pinpoint information it retrieves into best-of-breed analytical tools and software for further filtering and sifting. Explorit Everywhere! complements big data dashboards by funneling a broad swath of relevant material down the pipe for further analysis. On the front-end Explorit Everywhere! can also enhance what the user sees in the dashboard with complementary information drawn from a variety of sources, both internal and external to an organization.
- Cloud – Enterprise search is moving toward the cloud, and with that comes silos of information lost in the cloud. Explorit Everywhere! performs a real-time search, of multiple databases across multiple clouds of information together with information residing in Corporate silos that have not been moved to the cloud. These clouds may be behind a firewall, or outside of the firewall, but often stump indexers due to the nature of resources. Explorit Everywhere! connects to the databases wherever they are making the world a much smaller place.
Explorit Everywhere!’s integrated SMAC features create a holistic search experience, ensuring that our clients are at the forefront of technology, and not trailing behind the curve. With the best of this generation and next-generation technology, Explorit Everywhere! clients are part of the changing technology scene. We’re riding not just the mobile wave, but regularly improving connections to social networks, tuning our analytics and simplifying our cloud-based technology. And, the process of finding the most current information will shift as the future unfurls. Explorit Everywhere! will leverage SMAC and other next-generation technologies to embrace new concepts, connect with data wherever it may sit, and engage our users. Explorit Everywhere! is state-of-the-search.
2014 has turned the corner and Deep Web Technologies is moving quickly toward some exciting goals. Our developers are draining the java and pounding the keyboard to produce a new version of Explorit that will allow greater flexibility and more robust features. We’re very excited to see the nimble and feature-rich product of much planning and work right around the corner.
Throughout 2014, we’ll be lifting the veil on new features and functionality, some of which will automatically be included in our updated Explorit. Other features will accompany customers with more specialized solutions. Here’s a sneak peek!
Multilingual Searching: We’ve had great success with Multilingual Searching in WorldWideScience.org, so we thought that we’d take our Multilingual searching to the next level by opening up the languages we can include. Languages are complicated, and we’re taking Explorit to the next level to deal with that complexity. Our multilingual searchers who want to find precise results translated from other languages into their language will find our updates very simple and easy to use.
Mini-Explorit: Many of our customers have asked about getting a smaller “widgetized” version of Explorit for a page in their website. Introducing…Mini-Explorit! Mini-Explorit can sit on a webpage, search and show results quickly without going to the full application. It’s self-contained. With this new feature, we’ve got you covered for those fast homepage searches.
My (Personal) Library: With the My Library feature, users can select results and save them to their My Library. When they log out, their results will be saved, safe and snug, awaiting their return. Of course, at any time, users can email, print, export or just keep saving their results. We’re not picky, and neither is our My Library.
Oh, there are plenty of other slick features coming down the pike. Interested in knowing more about these and other features? Let us know!
Here’s hoping you find a fulfilling 2014!
Our clustering engine has always been among our customers’ favorite features. We introduced the feature and its tremendous value in discovering documents in our “Clusters That Think” article.
One of the most interesting features of our Explorit search product is our clustering engine, which analyzes results and produces “clusters” that represent a new and powerful way to navigate search results. The true power of these clusters is often overlooked, for they superficially resemble the output generated by the keyword-based systems and fixed taxonomies of other search engines. Our clustering technology, however, is more akin to a document-discovery engine, which provides a significant improvement over the alternatives in the library world.
Clustering is particularly powerful because, as our original article on the subject explains, “users think in concepts, not keywords.” Extending this line of thinking, we believe that many people think in pictures and not in lists and sublists of text so we introduced visual clustering to our Explorit feature set.
Here is a screenshot of a visual cluster of results for the search term “satellite communications.”
By clicking on the “Visual” link at the top of the cluster window, you can switch from the default outline view to a view that displays the five topics with the greatest number of results and the five sub-topics with the most results for each of the main topics. As you would expect, all of the areas of the circle of results are clickable and update the set of results you see to the right of the cluster. You can click on any of the triangles to see a third level of clusters. And, for those of you who prefer the outline view or want to dive deeper than two levels, you get that view by default or you can switch back to it by clicking the “Topics” link at the top of the cluster window. Whichever view you pick you get the same results so you needn’t be concerned about missing out regardless of which view you select.
This visually intuitive feature has been remarkably well received. You can give visual clustering a spin at our medical research application, Mednar, and at the science portals Science.gov and WorldWideScience.org as well.