F2. Difficulty understanding results structure or layout

Situation Definition:

A situation that arises from difficulty understanding the overall structure or layout of the search results displayed by a DL.

Factor(s) Leading to the Situation:

    • Complex information presentation:

    • Complex information presentation:

    • Complex information presentation:

    • Inadequate knowledge:

    • Inadequate support:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

Guideline or Design Recommendation:

    1. Maintain a simple and consistent logical structure and layout for presenting search results in a DL
    2. Ensure that structural elements of search results have meaningful

    3. Explain the structure and layout of search results presented, as well as how to interact with the structural elements
    4. Enable users to control their search results layout

Rationale and Objective:

Displaying search results in a way that is clear, well-labeled, and consistent is key to helping users understand and navigate them (1).  Results structure and layout may be complicated if DL web pages include a variety of structure types, such as 1) a visual gallery, 2) mapped results on a map, 3) displaying related or similarly-named items, 4) clustering results, and 5) displaying mixed types of results. (2) The results structure should be simplified, including minimal elements and understandable

. The results section should be properly labeled to designate the search results region. Each result title should be formatted with the header tag (<h#>) to allow

users to quickly navigate through the results list by titles. A summary of results might be helpful for BVI users to recognize the results, such as the number of results, results layout, and tips for how to reorganize the results. Clear instruction should be provided to inform users of how to use and modify the results layout.

Techniques and Methods:

1.1. Format results in a table/list format
1.2. Display each result item in a concise format for rapid scanning
1.3. Provide an option for result layout display
1.4. Design visual layouts that can be converted into the textual layout for

users (e.g., web pages including visual contents that can be converted into webpages including only text)
2.1. Provide clear search results section header
2.2. Label results titles using headers
3.1. Provide instructions regarding the result structure/layout
4.1. Allow users to switch results layouts through detailed/simple layouts, or facets (e.g., content type, date/era, region, and genre)

Recommended Features:

1.1. Simple results structure (See example 1.1/1.3/2.1)
1.3. Result layout options (list/grid) (See example 1.1/1.3/2.1)
1.4. Text only version (See example 1.4)
2.1/2.2. Result title with heading tags (See example 2.1/2.2)
3.1. Context-sensitive instructions/tips (See example 3.1)


1.1/1.3/2.1. Simple result structure with result layout option and result title: Good design

Artstor organizes the result structure simply and also provides layout options and a result title.

Results page with heading applied to result title (2766 results for "video" from Public Collections.) and two options for layout display

1.4. Text-only version: Good example

HathiTrust provides textual description – text view.

HathiTrust item page with emphasis box around option to "Go to the text-only view of this item"

2.1/2.2. Result title with heading tags: How-to example and Good example

Apply HTML heading code to a result title

e.g., <h2>Search Result # items found</h2>

Artstor applies the HTML heading code <h1> to result title. Search results display with <h1> element applied to title (22322 results for "water" from Public Collections.)

3.1. Context-sensitive instruction/tips: Good design

Europeana provides tips for search result layout.

Search results explanation reading: "Using the Refine Your Search menus, you can filter the search results you receive by media type, copyright status, country, language, cultural institution or aggregator (the national organisation or project through which Europeana receives content). Search results are presented in a grid or a list. You can select how many results to show per page by selecting 12,24,48 or 96 from drop-down list either above or below the results."

Related Resources:

    1. Russell-Rose, T. (2013). Designing Search: Results Pages. Retrieved from https://uxmag.com/articles/designing-search-results-pages
    2. Xie, I., Babu, R., Joo, S., & Fuller, P. (2015). Using digital libraries non-visually: Understanding the help-seeking situations of blind users. Information Research: An International Electronic Journal20(2), paper 673. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/20-2/paper673.html.
    3. HathiTrust (2018). Retrieved from https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015073480538;view=1up;seq=1
    4. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 2.4 Navigable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#navigable
    5. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.2 Readable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#readable
    6. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.2 Predictable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#predictable

See also:

Help-seeking Situations > F. Confusion about multiple programs, DL structures, or search results structure