There are a great number of elaborate interfaces for searching databases, repositories and search indexes……………. that is for anyone with enough determination to figure out how to use them. Google, of all search engines, surely has the greatest expertise around in developing search interfaces and yet they emphasise, more than anyone else, the power of the ’single box’ search interface. It is as unscholarly as it gets – totally undefined and uncontrolled. It is an “anything/everything” search, what you type in can be anything in any category in any context. I think the joint text/substructure interface should be made with this in mind. By introducing too much “organisation” in the form of e.g. categories, searches for specific data types, etc. we could lose the dynamic nature that is embodied in the full text search index.

That is not to say there won’t be LOTS of advanced search features, there will, it is just that my feeling is they should be built to filter results from the full text index as opposed to organising/standardising (i.e. losing) data from the index prior to releasing it for searching. Standardised, defined and organised data in boxes looks wonderful and scholarly, but chaotic full text search indexes are more useful.

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One Response to “Search Interface: Scholarly Versus Useful”

  1. tony says:

    I agree with you. The Basic Search at http://www.chemspider.com/Search.aspx is exactly of that nature. It appears that most people want to search on chemicals by name. However, click under that Advanced tab and a whole new world of possibilities show up for everyone..including structure and substructure search of course. See http://www.chemspider.com/Search.aspx?t=adv

    Simplicity is good…advanced capabilities are necessary. Combining them on one screen…difficult.

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