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Wednesday, 5 August 2009


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 ( 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: - 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 email to tell us).