Change is hard. How hard? Some people will literally die rather than change.
Fast Company: Change or Die.
Unless only librarians are using your interface, design for users.
That means your actual users, not some ideal users whose mental models just happen to be exactly the ones you want them to have.
Your actual users already have a mental model of search. It is the Google model.
Lorcan Dempsey reports:
Jackob Nielsen's current alertbox is about mental models of search:Search is such a prominent part of the Web user experience that users have developed a firm mental model for how it's supposed to work. Users expect search to have three components:
- A box where they can type words
- A button labeled "search" that they click to run the search
- A list of top results that's linear, prioritized, and appears on a new page -- the search engine results page (SERP)
If you break that model, your site is just confusing to users.
The Shifted Librarian also picked up on THE Search Box, citing this amusing dialogue:
"I'll skip over the part about our website (we're able to fix that pretty easily) and write about what they recommended for the catalog. The first screen they gave us was a redesigned search form. An interesting dialogue came out of that:
Usability Expert: Ok, so this is the search form...
Librarian(s): So... is this the simple search form or the advanced search?
Usability Expert: This is the search form." [Dilettante's Ball, via Caveat Lector]
Remember this: sub-optimal may be acceptable, if the cost of optimal is very high.
If you can get good enough results in front of someone fast enough, that probably meets their needs.
Librarian in Black cites a different part of the same usability report:
So, these folks had a professional usability study performed on their OPAC.
While not every aspect of our web presence is bad, a great deal of it is, and, worse, the bad parts are generally the most important.
Hee hee hee.
And Roy Tennant wraps it all up with a delightful summary in Library Journal: Lipstick on a Pig.
Recently I viewed a library catalog redesign before it went public. This was the first major change in many years, and it turned out to be quite an improvement to the look and feel of the system. But despite this, it still sucks. Badly.
I don't know how much time was spent on this cosmetic facelift, but until the deeper problems that plague this system are addressed, users will remain poorly served. Librarians appear to be afflicted with a type of myopia. We see only minor, easy-to-make corrections instead of changes that will truly affect the user experience. We ask our vendors to tweak this or that to make our lives easier, while the users are left to founder on an interface that only a librarian could love.