There’s a great scene in one of my favorite movies, The Fifth Element, where Leeloo hides in a shower stall that slides up to save space and exposes the fridge.  Apparently, when the shower is hidden in the ceiling, this thing called “Auto-wash” comes on and cleans the shower…and Leeloo.  It also gives us a decent metaphor for Auto-Search.

During the usability testing, users would occasionally perform a search that yielded no results which resulted in a page that gave users tips on how to perform a better search (widen the scope, remove material type limits, etc.).  However, in every case, the users recognized it was a “no results”  page and immediately clicked off or performed a new search without reading the tips we carefully tested and wordsmithed.  So, instead of investing time in using the “no results” page, we invested time in making their search better for them, automagically.

There have been a handful of questions on auto-search, so here are some answers to the most common:

How does auto-search work?

Auto-search activates when the user’s search returns no results and the library has it activated (it is activated by default). Once it starts, auto-search does the following things to the search:

  • all search limits are removed
  • all indexes are set to keyword
  • search scope becomes worldwide
  • all boolean operators change to “OR”
  • sort becomes relevancy ranked

Essentially, we took all those tips we give users when they’re having trouble locating items and rolled them into one search using the keywords they first used.

Is it possible to change how auto-search behaves?

No, not at this time.

But I really want my users to have no search results as it is a crucial point in the learning process whereby they will learn to become better, more efficient searchers!

Ok, this one isn’t really a question nor has it been asked, but if you’ve read this far and are still unsatisfied by auto-search, we’ve included a way for you to turn off auto-search. Once you log into the Dashboard, head to the Customization area.  Once you’re there, scroll down to the bottom until you see a section called “Ownership/Availability.”  Then look for this:

You’ll notice that mine is checked, I’d suggest you match mine. But, if you’re still not happy, just go ahead and uncheck that box and IDS Search will no longer run auto-search.

What the heck does The Fifth Element have to do with auto-search?

We’ve worked really hard to make IDS Search as good as it can be. Of course, it can get better and we’re working on that, but we really believe we’ve constructed a good tool based on hours of usability testing, which will be supplemented by the eye-tracking being run this fall. Sure, it isn’t perfect. But, while your shower may soak the occasional person hiding in there, we hope that most of the time you’ll be happy that when you leave for the day, you have auto-wash…and the bed that makes itself.


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