Evaluating Newspaper Sites II

Jan 26, 2014

A look at the Berlin State Library.

Following on from a previous article, In September 2013 I was given the interesting challenge of performing a heuristic review on six newspaper archive sites, the DDR Presse (Berlin State Library), British Newspaper Archive (British Library), dLib.si (National and University Library of Slovenia), Timarit.is (National and University Library of Iceland), eLuxemburgensia (National Library of Luxembourg), and Kramerius 3 (National Library of Czech Republic).

Here I will look at the findings I noted from the Berlin State Library.

The Berlin State Library

As the physical location, and targeted user would naturally dictate the language of the website, I was immediately at a disadvantage when looking at the Berlin State Library website.

Despite my very limited German, and the fact the website is very text heavy, it was quite easy to see the three columns on the landing page, which had good separation between the areas. Left being navigation, centre being main content, and right being the login area.

In the accompanying video, which you can see above, I show how expert users make sites work for them. In my case, as a non-German speaker I used Chrome’s inbuilt translation tools, to help point me in the right direction. I was unclear as to why I had to log into the website to start with, but perhaps native speakers would have a clearer understanding of why this is asked of them.

From my research, studies, and own experience, visitors to websites want easy, instant access to content whenever and wherever possible. It needs to be convenient to their busy lifestyles, and if you are restricting your website with a blocker, then the user must understand why you are doing this; is it for their own security? or, is it purely for marketing?

If the user feels that something you’re asking for isn’t necessary, they’ll either give you fake information, or they’ll forget about filling out your form.
UX Movement

After attempting to login, there was no notification to show that I had either logged into the website, or the login process had failed. Which violates the Visibility of system status heuristic.

The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

In the above video I take a look at the search functions, and note the good experience with the auto-suggestions. Auto-suggest could be implemented on many different levels, it could look at previous historical searches you have made, and way them heavier, it could look at the most popular search terms on the site, and list them in that order, or as they have done here, it lists the order by the amount of items found on the website.

Auto-suggest allows the user to get to the content quicker, by reducing the number of keystrokes needed. If implemented well, then this is a powerful addition to any website.

Baymard Institute have a great article entitled, “Redesigning the Country Selector”, which introduces some powerful enhancements to handle typos, synonyms, and numerous other improvements. In the screenshots below, I looked at Google Maps and KAYAK, while using the Dutch interface. Notice the spelling, and the auto-suggestions.

Searching for 'London' on Google Maps. The location is translated.
Auto-suggest, Auto-complete, Auto-translate on Google Maps.
Searching for 'London' on Kayak. The location is translated.
Auto-suggest, Auto-complete, Auto-translate on Kayak.

I should state that the “Converting Search into Navigation” article from Jakob Nielsen does suggest that “if something isn’t in the search suggestions, users might never bother to search for it”. Despite this comment, and proposed faceted category solution, auto-suggest is far better to have than not to have.

The search icon itself is something that I also brought up, this violates the consistency and standards heuristic, as you will see, an icon that is used as a fast-forward button is in place of a magnifying glass.

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

A fast forward button and a magnifiying glass

Although there has always been debate about the use of this icon, it is one that has been used for many years, and is ingrained in meaning ‘to search’. The magnifying glass itself is a stereotypical artifact from the days of classic detective stories, who use this tool to search for clues.

I don’t think the icon is the best choice, as a magnifying glass with a plus or minus symbol inside means to zoom in or out, which are two totally different functions than performing a search. Would I change it? - never, you would be mad to even attempt to. It is a familiar icon that people recognise, and do not need to think about what it will do when they select it.

In short, do not try to reinvent the wheel.

The Apple Newton MessagePad, and Palm Pilot
The magnifying glass on the Apple Newton MessagePad, and Palm Pilot