Accessible Archives – Interface and Navigation Changes
This year Accessible Archives embarked on a project to upgrade our interface and navigation capabilities. To this end we conducted a survey of some 14 libraries of all types – plus three consultants close to the library and information science industry – regarding the feasibility of our search interface. It has been an ongoing process as we interviewed a cross-section of librarians – both from schools with annual subscriptions and those with permanent access to the collections – to learn what they liked and didn’t like about it, and received a large amount of valuable input. Four members of the interview group then agreed to support us further as part of an informal Advisory Board as we worked to make enhancements to our service. We would like to thank:
- Scott R. Anderson – Associate Professor, Information Systems Librarian, Millersville University, PA
- Clinton Baugess – Reference and Instruction Librarian, Gettysburg College, PA
- Jane Hutton – Associate Professor, Electronic Resources Librarian, West Chester University, PA
- Terry Simpkins – Director, Discovery and Access Services, Middlebury College, VT
We now have completed a major analysis of our product feature-set, and through the close of the year and beyond we will be deciding on a further group of changes to deliver an even better user experience. This entire project was coordinated by Unlimited Priorities LLC, a firm specializing in support for small and medium-size companies in the information and publishing industries, and whose Archival Initiatives Division (AID) provides support services to the library and archives communities. Unlimited Priorities is the exclusive sales and marketing representative for Accessible Archives.
We are excited to update you on the navigation and presentation enhancements made to date to the Accessible Archives interface and functionality. We take our customers’ questions and corrections very seriously, and we invite you to comment on any of the changes and upgrades we have made.
Searching subscribed content directly from the product description pages
We have added a Browse and Search button for users with IP access that launches a new tab/window directly to the specified collection. Users who review our Collection information and other marketing materials can now quickly move to the search screen:
Helping users recognize and understand the content they are selecting and searching
We have made several connected changes to the visual aspects of Accessible Archives. Most noticeably we have given each of our Collections a distinctive subject icon which is displayed when users browse titles and review search results.
In addition, we have provided mouse-over descriptive text to provide context for each Collection:
Providing more helpful results messages
Nobody wants a flood of search results but when large results sets are generated it is good to know what is happening and we have ensured that our on screen messages are as helpful as possible. For example, a search resulting in an inordinate number of hits will generate the following message:
11888 is too many documents to format in a result list. Formatting the 200 most relevant for display. (Please consider narrowing your search criteria.)
Redesigning the look and feel
We have made a set of generally subtle updates to the look and feel of the Accessible Archives interface to bring it into line with our marketing livery and to freshen up some of the design elements
The first thing to notice is that the screen background is now white. We had grown rather attached to the parchment background, but our research showed a strong preference for a simple, clean approach and we think the new design works well
We have also tightened up the design components and the layout to work with different screen sizes and resolutions – this ensures that even on the largest displays the interface will fill the screen and use the available real estate effectively.
We have created an entirely new area in the interface specifically for library administrators – away from the search area. This is where we provide support and deliver account information. A direct link from the main menu bar provides access to:
- Accessible Archives recorded account contact information
- access to downloadable MARC records
- announcement details, e.g. about product updates
- annual maintenance fee dates for customers with permanent access
- begin and end dates for customers with annual subscriptions
- branding indication
- the COUNTER site via log-in to COUNTER
- IP range definitions
- Username/password login definitions
Remove unnecessary clutter
We removed Announcements from the search interface, and also removed the Site Map button from the menu bar. At the same time we instituted some general housekeeping methodologies to update the accuracy levels.
We have created a new place for product and other announcements, such as Webinar dates, new MARC records availability, etc.
Search response time
In order to increase search speed we have updated the public domain software packages upon which the Accessible Interface and functionality is built and embarked on application changes to enhance our interface. The underlying software packages that were upgraded to the latest stable versions include Apache, Java Dev Kit, Tomcat (Java Server Pages), Lucene search engine software, Shibboleth and ActiveState Perl.
In addition, the server hardware was significantly upgraded and newer server software (operating system Windows 2012) was implemented by our service provider. Future changes will continue the upgrading of our Public Domain software package base to newer stable versions and both server hardware and server operating system upgrades as needed.
We improved navigation between the product (Search) and marketing (Collections) pages by:
- Adding a Search Database button to the product description bar
- Opening a new tab when the user moves from marketing to product pages, and vice-versa
- Clarifying what the search box on the marketing screens actually searches by re-wording the explanatory text
- Re-naming Previous Document/Next Document links to Previous Result/Next Result in order to avoid confusion when going to the next search result instead of the next page of the current result – or vice-versa.
Godey’s Lady’s Book
We have made several fixes and enhancements to our Godey’s Lady’s Book product based on user feedback and comments. In particular, we were informed that we were missing some thumbnail images that should appear in articles when the article is displayed. And, some thumbnail images linked to an incorrect (larger) cropped image that displays when the thumbnail image is clicked or the cropped image was simply missing when the thumbnail was clicked. These issues have been resolved.
In addition, users wanted the issue page images for the years 1830 through 1885 made available (they were already available for the years 1886 through 1898). Issue page images for the years 1831 through 1885 have been added. Other enhancements are forthcoming. As a reminder, our collection is the only one that contains all the color plates.
Several Webinars are conducted each month, highlighting recent updates to our collections and search tools. General webinars provide an introduction to and an overview of our databases. Subject-specific webinars focusing on particular areas of history such as the Revolution, the Civil War, Women’s History, etc., are under development.
Frank Leslie’s Weekly
This collection has been completed with both images and keyed text now available. Generous pre-publication pricing still is available, but will expire at the end of 2015.
Now students, faculty and teachers, historians and researchers, using Frank Leslie’s Weekly, can trace the development of America in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. Researchers interested in popular culture will find unique information covering every phase of America’s evolution for more than 70 years. Because more than 80 percent of the material in Frank Leslie’s has never been reprinted or anthologized, this collection creates endless possibilities for new and more thorough research.
A diverse variety of writers published their stories in Frank Leslie’s Weekly, including Louisa May Alcott, H. Irving Hancock, Helen R. Martin and Ellis Parker Butler. In addition, several notable illustrators worked for the publication, including Albert Berghaus, Norman Rockwell – who created covers for the magazine in its latter years – and Fernando Miranda y Casellas.
Unquestionably, this digital collection illuminates numerous aspects of American life, but its relevance is not confined to the past. Frank Leslie’s Weekly chronicles the nation heading into the catastrophic conflict between North and South, the postwar growth of industry and the rise of cities, and the movement westward. Frank Leslie’s records American popular culture, unlocking the immediate past so scholars can examine the nation’s history, helping us better to understand our present concerns and issues.
National Anti-Slavery Standard
This collection is nearing completion, and both images and keyed text will be available in December. Generous pre-publication pricing still is available, but will expire at the end of 2015.
American County Histories.
This collection continues to expand, with three regions now complete: Southeast, Southwest and West. We are processing a massive number of books in the Central and Midwest, and these regions are scheduled for completion by mid-2016. In addition, we have located and are adding large numbers of books to the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions.
Pre-publication pricing remains available in a number of these areas.