A New & Improved BHL Search & Interface

In October, 2011, BHL Staff conducted a usability test of the BHL US/UK portal, assessing its functionality and comparing it with that of the BHL-Australia portal. While several recommendations arose from that exercise, two of the most emphatic were a need to improve the BHL search functionality and a desire to make the BHL US/UK portal more aesthetically pleasing.

You spoke, and we listened. Today, we’re excited to announce the release of a new and improved BHL interface and search capability! 

View Full Size Image

As far as improving the aesthetics of our site go, we couldn’t think of a better approach than incorporating some of the amazing Flickr images our users have grown to love. On the new BHL homepage, you’ll now see a selection of the over 29,000 illustrations in the BHL Flickr, with the option to view more of the collection in Flickr (by clicking on the “View Additional Images” link) or the specific image within BHL (by clicking on the actual image).

We’ve also updated the social aspect of the site by including our @BioDivLibrary Twitter stream and relocating our social media buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, and Flickr to the homepage header for better accessibility. You’ll also find a new and improved Featured Collections box, which will highlight special collections of BHL materials, particularly those included in the BHL iTunes U.

Search Improvements

While we know aesthetics are important, we also know that the meat and potatoes of the recommendations from our usability test center around a need to improve the BHL search.

The new enhanced search addresses metadata only, not OCR text within a book or scientific names.  Think of this as a better search across library metadata.  The search function is a Google-like search that provides fuzzier searching across titles, authors, subjects and dates, while still allowing the exact searches that many of our users have come to love, as indicated in user surveys. Search results are returned according to a relevance ranking, and can be sorted by that ranking, by year, by author, or by date published.

Some example searches now enabled include:

You can also do more complicated searches by clicking on the “Books/Journals” search tab to include volume information and editions into your search criteria.

These search improvements have also been made to BHL’s APIs, including its OpenURL resolver, enabling developers easier access to BHL’s data for inclusion in third party applications.

Spend some time with our new site and feel free to give us your feedback by commenting on this post, sending us website feedback, or sending messages to us on Twitter or Facebook! We know you’ll be as excited about these improvements as we are.

Avatar for Grace Costantino
Written by

Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.