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EBSCO Redesigns Visual Search

In November EBSCO announced their scheduled late-December launch of their redesigned Visual Search, which I've long thought to be poorly named. It's really a visual browse/refine results.

Without actually using the new interfaces, it's hard to tell if this redesign represents an improvement of what's already out there. Functionality goes a long way toward usability.

That said, my initial reaction is that both interfaces are extremely hierarchical. They'll be good for drilling down into a topic—particularly interface shown in the second screen shot. It appears to be much more intuitive than the first, which breaks a cardinal rule of spilling data off the screen. The hierarchical arrangement will play well with librarians, who tend to be generalists. They almost always know a little about many topics and, consequently, need to burrow down into a specific topic it to find an answer for a patron.

I don't think it'll improve general user statistics greatly, though, because its hierarchical structure limits lateral findability and nonlinear discovery, which is what most researchers who know a good deal about a topic need. Furthermore, general-public researchers tend to recoil from highly graphical results displays because they want to go in, fiddle around a bit, and get out with just enough of what they need. Hence the durability of Google's interface, which hasn't changed appreciably since it was launched.

So, I predict, based strictly on my screen shot view, that the redesign will go over really well in pitch meetings with librarians and library directors, but over time it'll prove no more popular than their current interface system with user patrons. In other words, it'll be yet another librarian's tool, not a library tool.

At least it shows EBSCO is trying new things. And, eventually, they might nail it. Until they do, the redesign gives them an excuse to be in touch with their clients and hold their hands through pitches and staff training.

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