A unified search results page, commonly referred to as the “Bento Box” approach, has been an increasingly popular method to display search results on library websites. This method helps users gain quick access to a limited result set across a variety of information scopes while providing links to the various silos for the full results. NCSU’s QuickSearch implementation has been in place since 2005 and has been extremely influential on the approach taken by other institutions.
Way back in December of 2012, the DUL began investigating and planning for implementing a Bento search results layout on our website. Extensive testing revealed that users favor searching from a single box — as is their typical experience conducting web searches via Google and the like. Like many libraries, we’ve been using Summon as a unified discovery layer for articles, books, and other resources for a few years, providing an ‘All’ tab on our homepage as the entry point. Summon aggregates these various sources into a common index, presented in a single stream on search results pages. Our users often find this presentation overwhelming or confusing and prefer other search tools. As such, we’ve demoted the our ‘All’ search on our homepage — although users can set it as the default thanks to the very slick Default Scope search tool built by Sean Aery (with inspiration from the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Libraries website):
The library’s Web Experience Team (WebX) proposed the Bento project in September of 2013. Some justifications for the proposal were as follows:
Bento boxing helps solve these problems:
- We won’t have to choose which silo should be our default search scope (in our homepage or masthead)
- Synthesizing relevance ranking across very different resources is extremely challenging, e.g., articles get in the way of books if you’re just looking for books (and vice-versa).
- We need to move from “full collection discovery to full library discovery” – in the same search, users discover expertise, guides/experts, other library provisions alongside items from the collections. 1
- “A single search box communicates confidence to users that our search tools can meet their information needs from a single point of entry.” 2
- Thirteen Ways of Looking at Libraries, Discovery, and the Catalog by Lorcan Dempsey.
- How Users Search the Library from a Single Search Box by Cory Lown, Tito Sierra, and Josh Boyer
Sean also developed this mockup of what Bento results could look like on our website and we’ve been using it as the model for our project going forward:
For the past month our Bento project team has been actively developing our own implementation. We have had the great luxury of building upon work that was already done by brilliant developers at our sister institutions (NCSU and UNC) — and particular thanks goes out to Tim Shearer at UNC Libraries who provided us with the code that they are using on their Bento results page, which in turn was heavily influenced by the work done at NCSU Libraries.
Our approach includes using results from Summon, Endeca, Springshare, and Google. We’re building this as a Drupal module which will make it easy to integrate into our site. We’re also hosting the code on GitHub so others can gain from what we’ve learned — and to help make our future enhancements to the module even easier to implement.
Our plan is to roll out Bento search in August, so stay tuned for the official launch announcement!
PS — as the 4th of July holiday is right around the corner, here are some interesting items from our digital collections related to independence day:
- American Declaration of Tolerance and Equality
- July Fourth
- American Line S.S. Noordland
- American Legion; July 4 Coliseum — Only 30 cents for the kiddies!