Design: ACC Library Search

This is an overview of my process of redesigning the search process for American Career College Library users. Check out my detailed ACC Library search research page to see how I got to this stage in the process, or download my PDF portfolio to see the entire process from start to finish.


project background

American Career College is a health care career college in Southern California. One of the core functions of American Career College Library is providing its users with access to thousands of articles, videos, and ebooks through 10 subscription collections. As the Manager, Library Services, I set out to improve users' ability to search for and locate library resources in our subscription collections.


user research and design planning

I started the project by conducting research to identify any pain points in the user journey of searching for and accessing collection items. Based on my research, I identified the following insights as drivers of my design strategy:

  • Users had to select a single collection to search in prior to searching; many users didn't know how to make an effective selection

  • Searching multiple collections required too high of a cost in time and effort
  • Users had to keep track of four vendor-provided passwords and match these passwords to the appropriate collection to sign in; many users could not do this effectively


See my full research process for this project on the ACC Library search research page.


design approach

Based on my research, I wanted to design a single search flow for searching all collections simultaneously. This would require both the technical ability to search different collections from different providers simultaneously, as well as the ability to log into all collections with a single login.

I identified a product called EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) offered by our biggest content provider that was intended to provide an integrated search box for our 10 collections. I worked with an EBSCO developer to implement a custom design for the search box and results pages to fit our collections and our website. Similarly, I worked with our internal ITS Director to integrate ACC users' existing personal logins into our library collections' login process.


solution a: original design

I wireframed the library homepage and the search results page to reflect the improved journey. Users can search all collections using a single search box on the homepage and view/filter results on a single results page. If they click on an individual item record, they will be prompted to login with their existing personalized ACC credentials before landing on the item record page.



challenge: technical and project constraint

Unfortunately, this single search box design was not possible because of a technical constraint. We were unable to obtain metadata from one of our medical illustration collections, SMART Imagebase. We could provide an interaction to launch a separate search of this database, but results would have be displayed on SMART Imagebase’s results page, rather than on the primary results page.

Additionally, while a single login with personal credentials was implemented, redesign of this interaction was postponed for scheduling and budgetary reasons. Instead, an existing ACC login interaction was implemented, which is represented in following flows.


solution b: Adapted Design

Users can search all collections except SMART Imagebase’s medical illustrations using a single search box on the homepage. Users will be prompted to login with their existing personalized ACC credentials, as per existing interaction, before viewing results on a single results page. Users who search for content relevant to SMART Imagebase's medical illustrations (i.e. anatomy and physiology subjects) will be prompted to open these results in a new window by a call-to-action banner. Clicking the banner will launch a SMART Imagebase search in a new tab.



challenge: technical constraint

Unfortunately, developers were not able to make the call-to-action banner subject-dependent, so we could not target the CTA only toward relevant users.


solution c: implemented design

A tabbed search bar lets users search all collections from homepage without having to select individual collections at the outset. The distinction between the two tabs based on content type is more familiar and usable than the distinction (previously) by collection name. The results page for the primary tab includes results from all article, video, and ebook collections. Results from the Medical Illustrations tab are displayed on SMART Imagebase's results page.



next steps

While the implemented solution mitigated the challenges of searching multiple collections separately, the tabbed search bar was not ideal, as it still required some users to run two separate searches. To enable a fully unified search, I would strongly consider replacing SMART Imagebase with a comparable medical illustration database that could be included in the main search. This would allow us to implement the ideal design, Solution A shown above. Another priority should be implementing the improved login flow, which would both defer login until a later step in the flow and provide a more usable login form.