Let’s push things forward – V&A and British Library beta collections search

The V&A and the British Library have both recently released beta sites for their collections searches.  I’d mentioned the V&A’s beta collections search in passing elsewhere, but basically it’s great to see such a nicely designed interface – it’s already a delight to use and has a simplicity that usually only comes from lots of hard work – and I love that the team were able to publish it as a beta.  Congratulations to all involved!

(I’m thinking about faceted browsing for the Science Museum collections, and it’s interesting to see which fields the V&A have included in the ‘Explore related objects’ panel (example).  I’d be interested to see any usability research on whether users prefer ‘inline’ links to explore related objects (e.g. in the ‘tombstone data’ bit to the right of the image) or for the links to appear in a distinct area, as on this site. )

I’m not sure how long it’s been live, but the British Library beta catalogue search features a useful ‘Refine My Results’ panel on the right-hand side of the search results page.  

There’s also a ‘workspace’, where items and queries can be saved and managed.  I think there’s a unique purpose for users of the BL search that most sites with ‘save your items’ functions don’t have – you can request items directly from your workspace in advance for delivery when next in the library.  My friendly local British Library regular says the ability to save searches between sessions is immensely useful.  You can also export to delicious, Connotea, RefWorks or EndNote, so your data is transportable, though unfortunately when I tested my notes on an item weren’t also exported.  I don’t have a BL login so I haven’t been able to play with their tagging system.

They’ve included a link to a survey, which is a useful way to get feedback from their users.

Both beta sites are already useful, and I look forward to seeing how they develop.

BBC experimenting with inline links in articles

I noticed the following link when reading a BBC article today:

BBC: We are trialling a new way to allow you to explore background material without leaving the page.
If you turn on inline links, they appear as subtly blue text against the usual grey. Some have icons indicating which site the link relates to (YouTube, Wikipedia), others don’t. Links with an icon open the content directly over the article; links without icons open the link in the same window, taking you from the BBC story. Screenshot below:


The ‘Read more’ links to a page, Story links trial, that says:

For a limited period the BBC News Website is experimenting with clickable links within the body of news stories.

If you click on one of these links, a window will appear containing background material relevant to that word that is highlighted. The links have been carefully chosen by our journalists.

We are doing this trial because we want to see if you enjoy exploring background material presented in this way. It’s part of our continuing efforts to provide the best possible experience.

In addition to background material from the BBC News website, we are also displaying content from other sites, including Wikipedia, You Tube and Flickr.

I’d be really interested to know what the results of the trial are, and I hope the BBC share them. I’ve been thinking about inline links and faceted browsing for collections sites recently, and while the response would presumably vary if the links were only to related content on the same site, it would be useful to know how the two types of links are received.

The story I noticed the link on is also interesting because it shows how content created in a ‘social software’ way can be (probably wilfully, in this case) misinterpreted:

“Downing Street has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money after making a jokey video in response to a petition for Jeremy Clarkson to be made PM.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “While the British public is having to tighten its belts, the government is spending taxpayers’ money on a completely frivolous project.””