Wednesday, October 17, 2007


As sites get more complex, so do the design issues! We may well have got most of the technology right, but we're still battling to get the design right.

When we decided to add the significant number of specialist sites we didn't suspect the issues thrown up relating to usability. Questions we've raised and tried to answer include:

  • How do users of TRIP get to know that the specialist sites exist?
  • Should the specialist site look like TRIP or do they need their own identity?
  • If you go to one specialist site, how likely are you to move to another specialist site?
  • How should you navigate, consistently, between sites?

One of the big issues about design and websites is making the functionality 'there'. So if a user need to use/activate a function it is easily 'findable'. However, you have to balance the findability of the function with the relative importance. It makes sense to have the search box displayed prominently but there is little point having the link to this blog equally prominent. At the bottom of the post is a mock-up of the new homepage. Will it still be like this at launch, we're not sure.

So we're trying to get the balance right. One thing we won't do is rush to meet some self-imposed deadline to have the new site ready and launched. We may still get the site out by the end of the week, but only if we're happy.


Martin said...

the mockup looks good.
could you use a keyword search on the search item the user inputs to automaticaly suggest a specialist TRIP?
i think it is very important to know in which part of TRIP you are right now (my experience from teachin pubmed tells, that people get confused when switching to a mesh-search and back to pubmed)

Anonymous said...

I’ve been thinking of a similar system for a while and it makes sense for the specialisms. I’d also thought of using it when people do very broad searches e.g. asthma. You could then prompt them by saying “This is a broad search; you may want to refine it to ensure more focussed search results”.

I think the idea is definitely one for the future. As ever it’s a case of designing a robust system that will not cost too much and not take up too much of the screen!

With regard to letting people know where they are, I’m hoping we’ve got that ‘covered’. On the homepage they’ll be a big title above the search box and on the results page they’ll be the same title at the top of the search results. They’ll also be a clear button/link to change the specialism or return to the main TRIP.