could our catalog look like this?

From Casey Bisson, someone elses mock-up of a suggestion for what an Amazon results page should look like, to actually give the user the context on the result page to know which items are of interest:

[Oops, my blog layout isn’t big enough to see the interesting right column while displaying the image at full size. Click to see the image at full size].

The entire essay by Bret Victor is well-worth a read, on interface layout design for actually helping users accomplish their tasks with appropriate context.


8 thoughts on “could our catalog look like this?”

  1. While the usefulness of the angled covers is questionable, it does _look_ rather nice. And it is not too difficult to do from a programming point of view. Definitely one to remember for future reference.

    Bonus points would be awarded for getting the number of pages from the metadata and varying the thickness of the book…

  2. The usefulness of covers in general is questionable, angled or not. But I think covers add some visual interest, as well as a visual memory aid when scanning long lists. I have no particular opinion on whether they should be angled or not, or be displayed in 3-D with pagse or not, I don’t think it’s important.

    From a programming point of view, it’s easy.

    The question if we have the metadata to support it. That’s the hard part.

    I’m not even sure we _can_ extract the number of pages from the metadata in a computable way. Would be kind of silly that we’re spending the time to record the number of pages, but not actually record them in a structured way they can be machine-extracted, when that would take no more time per-item.

  3. I agree with you about the cover images, Jonathan–especially for an academic library that generally discards the jackets!

  4. So, seriously, the cover images are NOT the most interesting part of this mock-up to me.

    But to the extent cover images are useful, I actually _don’t_ think it’s because they need to match the cover of the actual book on the shelves. It’s just because they make the list easier to scan for the reader, by breaking up the text with images, and by providing different images for different books to act as a visual aid to return to a book you were looking at before in the list, as your eye quickly scans all over the place.

    So I don’t think it matters that a library discards covers, or if a library has a somewhat different cover than the one displayed. I think covers are somewhat useful anyway — but not necessarily _crucially_ useful, and not the most interesting part of that mock-up.

    The most interesting part of that mock-up to me is how the right information to allow a user to evaluate a book is presented in a clear fashion, using language that you don’t need to be an expert to understand, packing a dense amount of information in but in an easy to scan and understand way. Contents, synopsis, subject (presented in plain language), number of pages, reviews (which could be user-reviews, or literature reviews), etc.

    THAT’s what’s interesting to me.

  5. The bolded concise summaries are very nice – kind of like at the beginning of SciAm articles. Don’t know of any automated ways to get those, but they would definitely help.

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