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IEEE Upgrades Its Xplore Digital Library
Posted On February 16, 2010
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This year is already shaping up to be the year of the platform upgrade, as one web resource after another undergoes extensive redesign and re-engineering to enhance features and functionality. Examples include EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), Ex Libris Primo Central, WestlawNext, and Cambridge Books Online; new platforms are currently in development for Lexis and Bloomberg Law. The latest upgrade announcement comes from IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the largest technical professional association, which, on Sat., Feb. 13, officially launched a "substantial upgrade" to the IEEE Xplore digital library ( Xplore first launched online in 1998 and had its last major redesign back in 2005. IEEE Xplore's more-robust search engine, intuitive user interface, sophisticated facets for refinement, and customizable features are designed to offer researchers a more-powerful tool for searches of IEEE's more than 2 million full-text technical documents.

Karen Hawkins, IEEE director of product management, says, "This major upgrade marks a milestone in the evolution of the IEEE Xplore digital library, enabling our customers to truly discover an altogether smarter research experience."

Hawkins says the association worked closely with its users on the redesign. "The innovative new features of the IEEE Xplore digital library were implemented as a direct result of the feedback we've received from our customer base as well as the user research we've collected."

IEEE client services managers traveled around the world to solicit feedback on the features most desired by academic, corporate, and government customers in user group meetings, during web conferences, in sessions with IEEE's Library Advisory Council members, in one-on-one design phase and integration testing, and throughout the quality-assurance process. In the prototype stage of the project, IEEE hired a third-party user-interface design specialist to conduct in-person usability tests. Demos of the product began in November 2009, with beta customers testing it from December 2009 until February 2010. The new system was deployed on a Saturday, a day of expected lower traffic. Now, IEEE's 3,000-plus subscribing institutions have access to the multiple products available on the upgraded Xplore platform.

Hawkins says the organization established four major goals for the redesign:

  1. Update the online presence to the latest standards
  2. Improve overall ease of use and navigation
  3. Improve search capabilities
  4. Give individual users options for personalization

Thus, armed with its customer research and goals, IEEE set about its major redesign. As an important component, it chose the Endeca search engine ( to replace the Verity engine it had been using. Endeca is known for its "guided navigation," using facets to help users refine search results.

Designed for improved navigation and functionality, the new IEEE Xplore interface enhances the search and browse tools in a clean, simple, and more-efficient design. A prominent browse tab and search box on every page provides quick access to research. The newest enhancements include the following:

  • Easy-to-navigate design
  • Improved search tools with drill-down into searches by multiple facets
  • More browse options-browse by content type, title, subject, or most popular
  • New personalization features-custom saved searches (up to 15), RSS feeds, email alerts, customize your search preferences
  • Institutional branding for customers including logos
  • Free abstract preview pages for guests
  • Enhanced online support tools

One academic librarian says he appreciates the fresh new look and the nice enhancements-"it's a very smooth transition to the future," in fact-but that the upgrade wasn't that big a deal, in his estimation. But one research librarian at a major corporation thinks the upgrade was an important and necessary move for IEEE. The old site was "more cumbersome to use" and involved "a lot of struggle for users," she says. The appealing interface and new features are great, but most important for her is the increased ease of obtaining quality results, enabled by the faceted navigation and refinement capabilities.

The faceted search results make finding the right information even easier. Here are some of the helpful features:

  • Smart "Refine this Search" capabilities allow users to refine or expand results by multiple facets
  • Convenient type-ahead shortens searching time
  • Functional search breadcrumb trail lets users easily remove search elements
  • Automatic search suggestion intuitively corrects spelling
  • Post-search sort options provide results-display flexibility
  • Global search box on every page lets users start a new search from anywhere

While many of the improvements are clearly meant to aid end-user searchers, power users have not been abandoned in this new system. Users who go to the advanced search page are able to click on a button that reads "switch to command search" if they want to construct their own Boolean searches. In addition to the advanced keyword/phrase search, users can click on other advanced search options to do a publication quick search, a CrossRef search, or a search.

IEEE Xplore is a powerful online resource for accessing scientific and technical publications produced by IEEE and its publishing partners. IEEE Xplore provides access to a comprehensive collection of full-text PDFs comprising highly cited journals in electrical engineering, computer science, and electronics. The content repository supporting IEEE Xplore contains more than 2 million articles from more than 12,000 publications that encompass journals, conference proceedings, and technical standards, with select content dating from 1893. IEEE Xplore also provides access to the IEEE Press book collection. IEEE Xplore MobileBeta lets you search articles from any web-enabled phone. Visit on your phone's browser. For more information about IEEE Explore, including a demo video, visit

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Max Power3/5/2010 10:37:17 AM

Your opinion that "power users have not been abandoned in this new system" is completely and totally wrong. The command line searching is crippled to the point of being useless. Fail after fail with no indication why it doesn't work, just zero results. Or massive numbers of results because every time you add something to narrow them you go back to zero.

Dear Max Power:

Thank you for your comment on the IEEE Xplore command search.

I was concerned about your experience using this search and wanted to find out the specifics.  What you reported in your comment is contrary to what we saw during our testing of the site..   It would be very helpful if you could share some of the specific searches you ran that delivered either zero or massive numbers of results.   If there is an issue with the search we want to address it.

Because the command searching is restricted to subscribers, it would also be helpful to know what kind of account you are authenticating with on IEEE Xplore.   If you are an institutional subscriber I'd like to put you in touch with one of our client service managers who can provide insight on the most effective ways to find the  information you need in IEEE Xplore

Thank you again for your interest - I look forward to hearing from you.  

Karen Hawkins
Director of Product Management    

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