The curse of IE6

In search engines on November 3, 2009 by africker Tagged: , ,

So NHS Evidence has been upgraded?  Lets have a look.

The first thing that leaps to the eye (ahem) is that the site is broken in IE6.  Navigation menus are not aligned, the search box has drifted off to the right and the results display is variously squashed or overflowing into the wrong section of the page.  This is something of an issue given that most of the NHS still lives in a retro world of IE6 (Copyright Microsoft 1995-2004).  I am sure it will be resolved soon (and it works fine with Chrome) but testing against IE6 must be an essential for any site deployment aimed at NHS users. 

What about the changes that were actually desired?

The accreditated sources of guidance have started to come on stream and have a slightly stretched mini eye to advertise themselves in the results.  This is visually clear but practically confusing (see the widely distributed quote from the Minister which only adds to the potential confusion).  A search for diabetes reveals lots of accredited source hits – but down at number 25 is Sign Publication No55 Management of Diabetes.  This does not carry the logo even though SIGN is one of the three bodies currently authorised to use it.  Why?  It might be the age of the item (2001) or some other factor.  Certainly it will be confusing to the end user.

A facility to rate results has been added with a Likert scale followed by a free text box for opinions.   You do not have to be logged in with the new My Evidence section to use this so there is no mechanism for feeding back to those who contribute comments in this way.  I wonder how much use this will receive?  It is definitely worth a try as developers and may garner some useful feedback.

The final obvious major change (there may be some subtle ones I have missed) is My Evidence. 

It will be interesting to see the level of take up of this facility (and to consider the levels of usage that the old MyLibrary facility on NLH attracted).  James Robertson in his excellent book “What every Intranet team should know” advances that experience shows only 5-10% of users will make use of personalisation features. 

My Evidence offers a means to save NHS Evidence searches and  set up alerts from those searches.  This seems to work OK.  My test search generated an enormous and unrealistic number of hits for the first week but I guess this might be expected.  My Evidence also offers the ability to save a result which is a welcome addition.  This currently lacks the means to subsequently manage these results (folders, tags etc?) which will be necessary for this function to remain useful as more documents are added.

Less convincing is the My News Feeds feature.  This is a fairly locked down RSS reader.  You can only add feeds from a very limited directory (most categories were empty when I had a look).  When you do add them you have no control over how many entries are displayed or how much content you see initially.  You also cannot save any of the results that are particularly interesting for later reference.  In  many ways it is a more limited version of the similarly unconvincing offer included in MyLibrary on NLH.

You can also add an optional profile.  There is however no justification given at present as to why you would want to.  Perhaps social tools will follow that will make this a more worthwhile feature?

My Evidence use a widget model so it is to be hoped that more options and control will be progressively given to the user.  If the iGoogle model is followed you could create a useful alternative starting point for people.  Hopefully the next iteration of NHS Evidence will see the addition of a HLISD widget that would allow end users to find their closest library or information service. 

The final thing of note is the authentication route.  NHS Evidence have chosen to require a new registration from users.  It is to be hoped that Athens will also be enabled in a future version.  Across the NHS the push is to reduce the number of logins required.  By linking to Athens the route to paid for content could be smoothed.  Athens also links people to organisations and roles which would be a useful way to potentially segment and tailor features on the site.  Not using Athens does have the advantage of allowing anyone to register and is no doubt administratively less burdensome.  One way forward might be the model adopted by BMJLearning where you can link your site login to your Athens login.


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