Tuesday, 22 November 2011

'There is no method for users to initiate queries using statistical tools': ReScript querying issue 2

Page section
Making Connections column


When the Making Connections column contained no data, i.e. when first viewing the page and before any searches had been carried out, users had no idea what it was for. Once it contained data, approximately half of the users still had no idea. When asked to perform a task that could be done either by simply reading the results in the Making Connections column, or by conducting a new search, most users conducted a new search. Users appeared to have no real understanding that Making Connections was providing results of statistical analysis.

Impact severity

Redesign the Making Connections function so that (1) the main search page only displays an “alert” that informs users when significant connections have been made; and (2) create a more advanced, separate “Super Connections” page which allows users to perform cross-tabulations and create graphic representations of the results.

Search for all people who died of Consumption and then find how many of these people were located in Sparrows Corner.
Figure 2—1: the statistical analysis tool, Making Connections, is regarded as an additional navigational aide

Quantitative measure
You have searched to find all people who died of Consumption. Where would you look to find how many of these people were located in Sparrows Corner?

Actual question
The results show all people who died of Consumption. Where would you look to find how many of these people were located in Sparrows Corner?
Initial click test result ('before')
September 2011: 89 responses.
Figure 2—2: Before

Development change
Historians value site search highly, so search result snippets are now followed by hyperlinks which allow further searching within these results (e.g. http://www.rescript.org/searchresult.aspx?q=con+London&b=2).
Figure 2—3: Sparrowes Corner appears in the list of links for results 1 and 4 - these links immediately re-query the search index

Follow-up click test result ('after')
November 2011: 330 responses.
Figure 2—4: After

There is currently no stand-alone functionality to permit statistical analysis as the effect and form of the service needs further research. In order to build up an evidence base to support or reject the inclusion of such a facility, search results now feature these extra links which, while tinted and appearing in smaller text, still appear to be effective in catching people's eye. However, the prevalence of clicks on the document title rather than the string Sparrows Corner suggests further visual work is needed to make people aware of this functionality.
Many users are drawn directly to the search box (after all, they know what they are looking for) – but this method is subject to getting the right spelling in the volume, and knowing its spelling variants. Adding the hyperlinks underneath the snippet enables the system to show a short burst of the style of authorship to the user, alerting them to the fact that they may need to use multiple non-standard spelling variations for their search to be successful.
Bruce Tate, Project Manager
Donna Baillie, Project Officer

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