Over the weekend, we launched an improved version of DIMES functionality that allows users to search within a single finding aid. Previously, the “Search this collection” simply added highlighting to hits within the body of the finding aid, which meant it was often impossible to find hits in long contents lists. In fact, we noticed that many users were simply resorting to using their browser’s “Find” functionality.

Scoped search is a pretty thorny usability problem – experts at the Nielsen Norman Group call it “dangerous, but sometimes useful” – and we thought about removing this functionality entirely. However, given the user behavior we observed, we felt this functionality fell on the “sometimes useful” end of the spectrum. I hope the changes we’ve made make it more useful, more often.

You might have noticed that we increased the size of the search box in finding aids, and also moved it more towards the center of the page. We’ve also added the ability to search within all collections as well as within the finding aid from this search box.

When you search within a collection, you’ll see only the series, subseries and files that are relevant to your search query.

In addition to this change, there are a few other minor tweaks we’ve made:

  • Complete hierarchy for a collection is now displayed in the table of contents for contents list pages.
  • Improved handling for resource records with identifiers containing a period.
  • Detailed information boxes in search results pages now slide out from underneath the component to which they refer, offering additional visual clues as to their meaning.