One Search Bar To Rule Them All

  • Purpose: Understand use of and expectations about search from the UVA Library homepage
  • Stakeholders: UVA Library homepage users and staff
  • Survey dates: April 19-25 (students) and June 29-30 (faculty)
  • Participants: 33 UVA undergraduate students, 19 graduate students, and 9 UVA faculty
  • Methodology: Participants were recruited from our existing research queue and through emails forwarded to academic departments. Students were compensated with a $10 Amazon card for completing the survey. The online Qualtrics surveys presented examples of site search bars and search results using screenshots from Harvard and Stanford libraries. Participants were given tasks to determine clarity of designs and were asked for opinions about the preferred display of search results. See Survey for a full copy of the survey questions.

Summary of Recommendations

  • Keep the Virgo search bar prominently displayed on the Library home page. Faculty and graduate students in particular use it frequently.
  • The magnifying glass icon that represents site search isn’t sufficiently identifiable on its own. If used, the icon needs a label.
  • There is some evidence that patrons are not expecting separate search bars for the catalog and library site search, and also evidence that patrons prefer to have a comprehensive page of search results. This strongly suggests that we should work toward having a combined search for Virgo and the Library website, at minimum. Preferably we should also include LibGuides and other major content sites within the Library domain.
  • The search results page should be categorized in a familiar way (“catalog,” “articles,” “library information,” “LibGuides”) and should have a clean, clear, and modern design. Breadcrumbs will help patrons navigate this complex search results page.

A Closer Look: Survey Question #4

“Here is a screenshot of another library homepage.  Click or tap once on the area where you would perform a search for information about this library’s food and drink policies.”

Crimson banner with white search bar at center

Harvard home page screenshot

Only 10/52 of students and 3/7 faculty correctly identified the magnifying glass icon as the place to find site search. Almost half of the students (22/52) misidentified the Hollis catalog search bar as site search. Participants may have interpreted “perform a search” to be synonymous with clicking on links. Student comments indicate that many chose the Hollis search bar because of its size and central location. Students may have expected the main search bar to provide this information or they weren’t expecting a second search bar. “Hollis” may not be identifiable as an online catalog, leading to incorrect use. Or there may be an expectation that a search bar will search everything Library-related.

When asked to explain why they chose the area they did:

  • “Food and drink policies wouldn’t be in the catalog, it would be on the library site”
  • “That’s where I would normally search in other databases”
  • “It is a search box”
  • “Very in my face; I don’t have to search for the search box”
  • “It is at the center of the page”
  • “It looks like a regular search bar”
  • “It may be easiest just to ask someone”
  • “No good choices”
  • “Unsure where to search”

A Closer Look: Survey Question #9

“Which option do you prefer for the display of search results?”

One column with headings Library, Tool, Service, Collection

Option 1 [Harvard] search results screenshot

Option 1 [Harvard]

Two columns with headings Catalog, Articles, Guides, Library Website

Option 2 (Stanford) search results screenshot

Option 2 [Stanford]

Answer Undergrads Grads Faculty TOTAL
OPTION 1 [Harvard] 19 3 2 24
OPTION 2 [Stanford] 13 13 2 28
No preference 1 1 0 2

Combined totals are roughly split between Options 1 and 2, but the majority of graduate students (13/17) preferred Option 2 (Stanford). Faculty were evenly split between Option 1 and Option 2. Even when considering which students indicated that they currently use UVA Library site search at least once a month, the preference between Option 1 and Option 2 is evenly split.

The comments give us a good idea of what we should take away from each design. The Harvard design (option 1) was thought to be sleek, clean, and easy to read and navigate. The Stanford design (option 2) received high marks for breaking down search results into familiar categories like articles, catalog, and library information. The Stanford design was considered organized and complete in its presentation of results; but also criticized for being “outdated” and “cluttered.”

“Do you have any further comments about the display of search results?”

Faculty:

  • “I like how in [Option 2] it clearly distinguishes between logistics & research.”
  • “Option 2 is categorized in a slightly more clear way but the design looks hideous and outdated + confused about catalog vs. articles options. Option 1 would be better if it had clearer categories.”

Sampling of comments from graduate students:

  • “Option 1 is easier to read, but Option 2 provides the most information for more specific searches.”
  • “I like how [Option 2 ] breaks down the information into categories like articles and library website.”

Sampling of comments from undergraduate students:

  • “I like the subcategorization [of Option 2]. Helps me quickly eliminate places I need to look.”
  • “I think the descriptiveness of option 2 is great but option 1 layout is cleaner.”

Survey

Faculty and students were given surveys with only slight differences. This is the survey as presented to students. Some questions were removed from the final analysis due to problematic wording.


Please help the Library evaluate our website.

The Library is reviewing the search bar function on our web pages and we would like your help. You will be asked to view several screenshots from library pages at other institutions and asked questions about them. This survey should take no more than 10 minutes of your time. It is necessary to use a desktop or a laptop or a tablet in landscape view to complete this survey.

If you have any questions about this survey please contact Melinda Baumann, User Experience Librarian, at baumann@virginia.edu.

Thank you!

Q1. Which best describes your relationship with the University of Virginia?

  • UVA Faculty or Staff
  • UVA Undergraduate Student
  • UVA Graduate Student
  • UVA Alum
  • Other

Please tell us about your experiences and expectations when searching for information on the Library’s web page.

Q2. How many times a month do you start a Virgo (Library catalog) search from the Library home page?

blue header with logo and search bar

UVA Library header screenshot

____ 0 ____ 1 – 5  ____ More than 5


Q3. How many times a month do you search the Library website using the search bar shown here?

white search box with heading, Search Our Site

Library site search screenshot

____ 0 ____ 1 – 5  ____ More than 5


Here is a screenshot of another library homepage.

Q4. Click or tap once on the area where you would perform a search for information about this library’s food and drink policies.

Crimson banner with white search bar at center

Harvard home page screenshot

What prompted you to choose this area?

______________________________________________________


The remaining survey questions relate to the display of search results.

Here is a screenshot of another library’s search results page.

Q5. Click or tap once on the area of this screenshot where you might expect to find information about that library’s food and drink policies.

One column with headings Library, Tool, Service, Collection

Search results screenshot from another library

Please rate your confidence that you might find information on food and drink policies here, where 1 would be not confident, 3 would be neutral, and 5 would be very confident.

5 4 3 2 1
Very confident neutral Not confident

Q6. Click or tap once in the area where you might search the library catalog to find resources about different food and drink policies. [Question removed from final analysis]

One column with headings Library, Tool, Service, Collection

Search results screenshot from another library

Please rate your reaction to these search results, with 1 would be confusing or frustrating, 3 would be neutral, and 5 would be clear and easy to read. [Question removed from final analysis]

5 4 3 2 1
Clear and easy to read neutral Confusing or frustrating

Do you have other comments about this search results page? [Question removed from final analysis]

______________________________________________________


Here is a screenshot of another library’s search results page.

Q7. Click or tap once in the area of this screenshot where you might expect to find information about that library’s food and drink policies.

Two columns with headings Catalog, Articles, Guides, Library Website

Search results screenshot from another library

Please rate your confidence that you might find information on food and drink policies here, where 1 would be not confident, 3 would be neutral, and 5 would be very confident.

5 4 3 2 1
Very confident neutral Not confident

Q8. Click or tap once in the area where you might search the library catalog to find resources about different food and drink policies. [Question removed from final analysis]

Two columns with headings Catalog, Articles, Guides, Library Website

Search results screenshot from another library

Please rate your reaction to these search results, with 1 would be confusing or frustrating, 3 would be neutral, and 5 would be clear and easy to read. [Question removed from final analysis]

5 4 3 2 1
Clear and easy to read neutral Confusing or frustrating

Do you have other comments about this search results page? [Question removed from final analysis]

______________________________________________________


Q9. Which option do you prefer for the display of search results?

One column with headings Library, Tool, Service, Collection

Option 1 [Harvard] search results screenshot

____ Option 1 [Harvard]

Two columns with headings Catalog, Articles, Guides, Library Website

Option 2 (Stanford) search results screenshot

____ Option 2 [Stanford]

____ No preference

Do you have other comments about this search results page?

______________________________________________________


Thank you for helping to improve the Library web site!


 

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