We recently reached the third milestone of the CollectionSpace UI rewrite, out of the four quarterly milestones established for the first year of the project. The focus of the past three months has been on advanced search and relating records, and we've made good progress on both fronts. In this post I'll highlight some of the changes you can expect to see in these areas in CollectionSpace 5.0.
In CollectionSpace, an advanced search (or field-level search) condition specifies values that must occur in particular fields. This is distinguished from a full-text search (or keyword search) condition, which specifies text that may appear anywhere in a record. A search query may contain both an advanced search condition and a full-text search condition.
The first change we've made is to simplify the way that users access advanced search. In the current UI, a search box in the header offers a quick way to execute a full-text search. An "Advanced search" link above that box leads to a page that offers both full-text search and advanced search. There is also a "Find and Edit" link in the header's navigation menu that goes to a separate page that offers only full-text search. In the new UI, the search box in the header remains, but the "Advanced Search" link above it has been moved into the header's navigation menu, and relabeled simply as "Search". The "Find and Edit" page has been removed, because it offers no functionality beyond what is already available from the search box in the header.
The other change is to update the layout of the advanced search form. In the current UI, each searchable field is presented as a field name and an input box for entering the desired value. In the new UI, there are now three columns: the field name, a search operator, and an input box. The fields and search operators that appear on the form are specified in the configuration of each record type. Available operators include matches, is (equals), is greater than, is less than, and is between. More operators (for example, contains and is empty) will be implemented soon. This sets the stage for a future (probably post-5.0) release where the entire advanced search form will be user editable. Users will be able to add fields, remove fields, and change the search operator used on each field, thereby fully customizing the advanced search form for their needs.
A key feature of CollectionSpace is the ability to create relations between records. In the UI, most of the work of managing these relations is done by opening a record (the primary record), and navigating to its related records by clicking on the related record tabs (or secondary record tabs) that are arranged at the top of the record.
The first change in 5.0 is to reduce the clutter of unused related record tabs. In the current UI, a related record tab appears for every procedural record type known to the system. There are already over a dozen of these, and new record types are regularly added to CollectionSpace, so the sheer number of tabs makes navigation difficult. In reality, most users only care about a few related record types that are important to their workflow. They don't need to see every possible related record type. This is solved in the new UI by allowing users to open and close related record tabs as they're needed. The software remembers the tabs that are open for each primary record type, so that users' preferences are retained from record to record.
The second change is to make it easier to find records to relate. In order to relate records to the primary record, users perform a search using a pop-up search form, and select the desired records from the result set. In the current UI, the pop-up search form only allows full-text search. In the new UI, both full-text and advanced search may be used.
Finally, we're proposing a change to the layout of the content of related record tabs. Currently, a list of related records appears at the top. When a record is selected in that list, the full record appears below. On the right side of the screen, a sidebar displays information about the primary record. The proposed change is to hide this right sidebar in related record tabs, and to use the additional space for a side-by-side layout, with the list of related records on the left, and the full selected record on the right. This allows both to be visible simultaneously, reducing the amount of scrolling users have to do.
For the next quarter, we'll be finishing up the last bits of search and relate functionality, and the moving on to the Create New and My CollectionSpace pages, as well as the Administration screens. Please send feedback to the CollectionSpace Talk mailing list, and let us know if you'd like to help!