Ebsco has made available their new interface to subscribers for several months and is about to launch it officially sometime in July. This is the first revision in over five years and the company seems to have taken a very focused approach to designing the new interface. First impressions are impressive with the simplified Google like search page which can expand to include 'drop-down' advanced search options. The manner in which they have done this is elegant negating the need to click to a separate page.
The full results page renders further options to narrow a search - Source, Author, Subject, etc - as well as by timeframe. Missing is an indication of the number of results that occur within each of these related search terms which can potentially result in proceeding down a dead end. The timeline limiter is executed using a sliding bar: Some users will like this but an equal number will dislike it. To me it looked like an attempt to incorporate some 'trendy technology' when using date ranges with a number indicating the articles falling within that range would have been more useful. As the user makes decisions on the direction of their search, these are recorded in a query chain that runs across the top of the page. As a result the user can jump back several steps at a time to retrace their search steps. The user can also use the same trail of queries to drop terms out of the string as well as start new queries. Users will find this feature highly useful.
The 'narrow/limit' your search boxes which run each side of the results set can be closed or opened and aids navigation especially when the user has narrowed their search closer to their objective. In short, closing these boxes alters the look of the page and improves usability; however, closing them makes the page less cluttered but does not seem to increase the number of items above the fold.
Ebsco has also included images from their image collection which are presented as part of each search result and can be viewed in pop-up form. Images include photos, diagrams, illustrations, graphs, and tables and Ebsco promises to have 3mm+ available by 2009.
While there are many other features included in the product, the preview tool is worth noting. Hovering over the magnifying glass icon brings up a pop-up preview window that enables the user to determine whether the article is worth accessing. From this window the user can save the article citation to a folder for review later. In practice, this means a user can scan through a list of results, rapidly identify the items of relevancy and save them all in one place for detailed review once their first pass research is complete. This is a nice feature and will prove useful to any researcher. (Export to all standard citation tools is also available).
For those more interested in looking at the other features here are some Ebsco documents. Of interest will be the Visual and Advanced search features which in the case of visual search offers an interesting approach to mapping the results set of any search.
(On a side note, I wish they would drop the 2.0 moniker; this is so 2005).