Of the many things I want to fix in this world the library digital services interface is among the top five. The interface for searching that works on a computer screen where you can use a mouse or trackpad to navigate is really awful on a tablet or smartphone. You have to zoom in and out, scroll long lists of hits and the functionality that you want, like sharing or saving is buried deep down in the system.
I have pondered this issue ever since the iPad came along and turned the way we interact with information upside down. Until lately I have not hit upon what felt like the right approach for me. But since the norwegian browser company Opera published their new browser for iPad, called Coast, I felt that something suddenly fell into place.
Here is my first attempt at putting my thoughts down in print:
What you see in the image is a screen as it would be when you access your library search interface from a tablet or smartphone.
In the top middle is the search box (søk in norwegian). If you flick down from the search box you will get a list of available databases that you can choose from individually. If you flick up from the search box you will get a list of previous searches.
The search results will display as rectangles with either a cover image or the title and author and other metadata displayed. The individual items can be clicked on and you will get either a full record or full text depending on the nature of the item.
The circles denote functionality. The circle in the top left hand corner (del means share in norwegian) is the share function. You can either flick an item from your search results in that direction and it will automatically go to the share service (Facebook, twitter etc.) you desire or you can choose from a list. If you click on the share icon without selecting an item you will share the search and search result.
In the top right hand corner is the borrow function. This is an context sensitive function where the nature of the item you flick or select before you click on the icon will determine what function you initiate. A library record will be placed on hold for you, an ebook will be sent to your account and displayed in your preferred reader app.
In the left bottom corner I have placed an IFTTT button. This you can program to do anything you want with your items or search results. Since IFTTT is totally customizable you should be able to get any desirable result from this.
The last button in the bottom right hand corner is a save function. This will save a record, or full text if available, directly to a citation manager. You can set up EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley or any other service you choose. Of course you can set up other services like Dropbox or Evernote as well.
The idea behind all this is to have a touch friendly interface that also have functionality that is useful for readers, students and other library members. It should improve ease of use on both tablets and smartphones and hopefully make searching and using library services a better experience than today.