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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

STL DISTRIBUTION SEARCH – WE’RE MAKING IMPROVEMENTS!


Hi everyone,
Many of you will be aware that our search facility on the STL Distribution website is not as easy to use as you’d like it to be – we couldn’t agree more!
Over the past few months we have been looking at the search facility to make improvements – it’s rather like a cyberspace version of painting the Forth Bridge – it’s never completed but continually being worked on!
We are aware that there are many things that need to be addressed and we are doing as much as we can to improve the search facility, but it is a time consuming manual process. The tools we have for measuring the effectiveness of the search are not particularly helpful or robust so we endeavor to improve things in the following two ways…

We measure search success rates – our search system tells us whenever a person searches for something and doesn’t find what they are looking for. The system tells us that 3 months ago we have a 78% success rate on searched (now improved to 80%).

Trial and error – we look for things and understand why we can’t find something. To do this we need to look for any number of search queries and as you can imagine is an impossible task.

We’re aware that you are using the site daily and have regular frustrations, we need your help! We have set up an email address for you to send us any search problems you have (search.problem@stl.org). I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to drop us an email any time (when practical) you experience a search problem. We will do our best to resolves it as quickly as we are able.
So what have we done to help improve the search? Below are a few things we have done to change the search in order to improve it and a couple of helpful search hints…

We’ve added a publisher field to enable you to refine your search:

We’ve altered the default search to only search titles that are ‘in print’.

For example if you searched for “Adrian Plass” the search offers you 26 titles:

If you then tick the box ‘include out of print’, you see that the search updates to include all Plass titles that are on the system (Eg it add all the titles that are no longer in print).



Taking Plass as an example the main benefit, from this change, is that it reduces the number of lines you need to search through to find what you are looking for. This change should improve the search performance and save you time as you look for the titles you need (in this case there are 33 more titles to sift through to find the title you are looking for).

View book covers in a search

This isn’t new but after speaking with some of you we thought we’d mention that you can choose to view your search as a listing or view covers…


Make use of “…”

When searching for something it’s often beneficial to put quote marks either side of your query – E.g. if you search for the first rainbow the search query pulls up 5 titles where those words are attributable to the search query – it can be any combination of those three words. If you type "the first rainbow" the three titles of that name come up – therefore refining your search

Searching for authors

A Search performs as well as the information that’s in it – often authors names are slightly different on a number of Books – eg GP Taylor, he appears as: GP Taylor, Taylor GP, G.P. Taylor, Graham P Taylor and Taylor Graham P. In this case we have fixed the search query to work on these variants but for many authors there will still be problems – S try different combinations if you struggle to find the title you are after.

By-passing the search

When you can’t find a title in the search and you know the ISBN/product code there is a way of checking if it is actually on the website - you can add the ISBN/code to the website address (URL) to locate the product page directly (sorry going to get a little techy here…). To do this you simply click on any product on the website (doesn’t matter which one) – my example here is the New International Version Pocket Flexibind – once the product page appears the URL shows as follows: http://www.stldistribution.co.uk/STLDSite/product/9780340523308.htm - you’ll see that there product code is there. To quickly get to a product page without navigating the website or using the search you can simply insert any product code into the URL and the product page should appear – if it doesn’t then it’s likely that the product isn’t on the website and we will need to know (please use the search.problem@stl.org email to tell us).

8 comments:

GLO Bookshop said...

A note to say we recently checked God & You (Penny Boshoff) on Synergi & found a note to say that the ISBN had been replaced. Although it didn't directly refer to the new ISBN, at least it was a 'starter for ten' in tracking it down. A welcome (even if long overdue...) addition to your system!!

While 'on the blog' just a reminder it would be really helpful (to me anyway) if your Customer Service team could include the text of the email that they are replying to. Although it does lengthen the email considerably, it does mean that another member of staff looking at the reply knows exactly what is being asked if the original person is not in (day off etc)

Thanks, folks, for this very helpful info about the search process. Look forward to pestering you with search queries!!

PS- you couldn't pass this onto Kingsway to see if they can improve their 'search' facility on their websites, could you?!

John Duncan said...

If you know the ISBN or product code it's much easier just to copy/paste or type it into the search field and this will bring it up straight away. I'm not sure why you are suggesting bypassing the search facility - with an ISBN it's much quicker just to use it!

GLO Bookshop said...

Another suggested improvement to invoices? Items being received as FREE (10 plus 1 etc) are currently being shown as full price column 8.99 disc column 0.00% line value 0.00. Although the end result is right, surely the discount value should read 100.00%.... almost every invoice I am getting this query from eagle-eyed staff!!

STL Blog Team said...

Hi John

You are correct, but just to clarify - there are occasions when a product has not been visible in the search. Without getting too technical, the website can fail to communicate a product to the search software, resulting in the product not being findable in the search (even with the correct ISBN and the product being on the site). Hence by by-passing the search you can check if a product is on the website.

I should also say this problem doesn't occur very often.

STLD blog team

STL Blog Team said...

Hi Glo

Thank you for the comment about further improvements to our invoices. I shall forward your comment to our IT.

Kind Regards

STLD Blog Team

ukcbd said...

A simple solution: I've suggested it before but let's try again - scrap the STL UK site and implement the excellent, much more user friendly service you use in the USA. You could save yourselves and us an awful lot of angst by using what you've got already.

Why try to fix your broken down 2CV when you've got a perfectly good Mercedes available?

STL Blog Team said...

Dear Glo

I have spoken with Mich Goodman with regard to your query about the way 'free items' are displayed on invoices.

The reason for this is that as the goods in the scenario are Free, the way SAP handles this is not by applying 100% discount but by issueing them as free goods. This means that there is no 100% discount to draw into the invoice.

Our IT team are going to investigate as to whether this can be changed presentationaly on invoices going forward.

Warm Regards

STLD Blog Team

LST Books and Resources said...

I've been using the 'search bypass' method for well over a year now: built it into the LST Bookshop's database a while back so that one click takes me direct to the product.

If you've got a customizable database it's very simple to set up:
1. Create a three-part calculation field (call it something like 'STL Link') made up of "http://www.stldistribution.co.uk/STLDSite/product/" + [STL Product Code] + ".htm" (where [STL Product Code] is the name of the relevant field in your database).
2. Create a script (or whatever terminology your database package uses) that opens the URL 'STL Link' (or whatever you've called the field).
3. Attach the script to the field (or to a button) so that when you click on it, it opens the URL.

Works very well most of the time but requires a dedicated STL Product Code field on the database because STL don't always use the ISBN (take Spring Harvest Music books as one example - there are many others) or barcode (CDs and DVDs are rarely on STL's system by their barcode: you have to use either the publishers code such as FIERCD36 or whatever code STL are using, which you'll usually find on the invoice).

Re. author names: this one is for you guys at STL to implement: I suggest some further staff training on the importance of consistency. Our policy at LST is that all books by a single author must always be entered on the database in the same way - so to take your example, G P Taylor is always entered as Taylor, Graham P.

Once staff understand the importance of consistency, it's not difficult - and it makes a huge difference when we want to track something down!

Thanks guys.