Search results




Users often have to filter out certain types of document by eye, lengthening the amount of time it takes to complete the task

Impact severity



Include option to exclude both indexes and prefatory material from results


A search for longleat returns elements such as ‘Notes on Abbreviations’; a search for richard ferris results in multiple ‘index’ components. In each case, the instances are mixed with narrative documents.

Supporting documents sometimes represent ‘noise’ for users

Quantitative measure

“You’re searching for the person ‘Richard Ferris’ – click where you would expect to exclude certain types of document from your results, e.g. indexes, lists of abbreviations”

Actual question

Please click on where you’d expect to EXCLUDE certain types of document from your results, e.g. indexes, lists of abbreviations

Initial click test result (‘before’)

July 2011, 200 responses.

Development change

New row inserted under text fields, titled ‘Include in results’ with checkboxes for indexes and abbreviaton list ticked by default (advanced search on British History Online).

Follow-up click test result (‘after’)

September 2011, 154 responses.


Clear movement from Before to After of clicks to the newly inserted function, less scatttered pattern to clicks overall. Still quite some work to do though; it appears that some users associate this function with the ‘Filtering options’ section underneath the main form.

Perhaps filtering options should be removed and its functionality built into the main form to remove this confusion. This work could simply be extended by incrementally changing functionality and stopping to check, provided we don’t exhaust our users’ patience with click tests!

Another idea would be to configure the form to have include and exclude boxes into which criteria could be placed – plenty of possibilities now that the mandate for change has been proven.