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Response to Review of JISC Historical Texts

I would like to thank Judith for her comprehensive review of the Historical Texts service. Historical Texts was launched in June 2014, and we are developing the service based on the feedback of our users.

In the example search that Judith uses she makes the choice of searching for a place name. This can mean that sometimes the words searched for are not found in the full text, just the descriptive data about the book (for example printed in Abingdon). Once within a book you can see the hits found in context (you just open up the search pane in the book viewer). We do have plans to enhance the service to show hits in context on the results page in the next year.

Judith rightly points out the poor OCR evident in the ECCO books. This OCR is exactly the same text that underpins the commercial ECCO package from Cengage – the main difference is we actually display the text to the user, where Cengage hide it away. Judith as her example uses a title page, which tend to have worse OCR due to the range and size of fonts, but overall the OCR is around 89 per cent accurate. The main function of the fuzzy search we offer is to help users find words when the OCR defeats them (by default the fuzzy search looks for up to two incorrect characters in a word). We are in close communication with the Emop team in Texas, and hope their project will provide improved OCR in the future.

Judith asks ‘What could improve the site further would be an even greater focus on user journeys. How do users navigate the site? What are their expectations? What kinds of searches do they want to do? How does the current interface encourage or prevent users getting to where they need to be? How can users be made more aware of the nature of the resources they are using?’

These are all questions we asked our users during the creation of this website – we presented our user group with wireframes for them to comment on, and as development proceeded regularly asked them to test aspects of the interface and feedback on changes. This is a process we continue with our Advisory Board, and whilst we may not have everything right first time, it helps give us a good place to aim for.