The test dataset consisted of all the newsbooks produced during the year 1649 (610 issues) and a complete run of the newsbook title 'Mercurius Politicus' (570 issues). This equated to 8,837 TIFF images, each comprising a page spread. These were double-rekeyed into 16,206 UTF-8 encoded plain text files, each representing a single page of text. The total quantity of characters rekeyed was 36,463,726. The text data was then indexed using Apache Lucene. The website front-end is served by Apache Tomcat. The search, browse, document display and workspace features are implemented using bespoke Java servlets authored at the Humanities Research Institute. The user generated content created as part of the workspace is stored in a MySQL database.

1. Developer Reflections on the Participatory Design Process

“I found the video observation especially useful. It highlighted small points of confusion in the interface which otherwise would not have been noticed, even by the users themselves. A good example is the assumption that clicking on the site title would return users to the home page. In early versions it did not, and video revealed the momentary inconvenience that created. Several times I overcame initial reluctance to implement a requested feature, only to find the result effective. The list of works published around the same time is a good example of this. The experience has highlighted the features important to an academic audience, which I would not necessarily have prioritised. The workspace and the prominence of transcription images are good examples. I feel these two insights in particular can be transferred to other projects.”

2. Prototype Walkthrough

A description of the functionality and ‘look and feel’ of the George Thomason Newsbooks prototype will be approached through a page-by-page tour of the site.

2.1. Search (Homepage)


  • The simplicity of the search page (homepage) is quite striking. The Design Group never brought up the idea of a traditional homepage with a banner and menu bar. They were completely satisfied with the clean, straightforward presentation and colour scheme.
  • The title gives a basic idea of the content of the resource and those requiring further information about the historical and technical background to the data can click on the bullet point on the left hand side so as not to clutter the main page with a dense body of text.
  • The main search bar contains the prompt ‘Enter search term(s)’ which disappears once clicked. The blue ‘SEARCH’ button initiates a search of the keyword(s).
  • Two search features, combined terms and phrases, are explained under the main search bar with the option to show more.
  • In the right-hand corner are links to logging into an existing account and creating a new account.
  • A list of the available newsbooks can be accessed through ‘Browse this collection’.
  • ‘+ DATE’ option expands the date field.

 2.2. Browse


  • In the browse screen, each newsbook title can be expanded to see clickable links  to the title pages of all available issues.
  • The left-hand bullet returns to the homepage.

2.3. More Search Features


  • Expanding the search features option instructs users on how to perform wildcard, fuzzy, and/not, searches; and the default if more than one term is  specified without an operator.

2.4. Date


  • The date function allows the user to add date delimiters to their main search with maximum flexibility; from very specific (day/month/year to day/month/year) to very general (one specific year).

2.5. Workspace


  • Once logged on, clicking on your username in the top right corner accesses your personal workspace. Next to the username is a shopping cart icon and a number, representing how many items you have saved to your workspace.
  • In the workspace, saved search result lists (magnifying glass icon) and result pages (page icon) can be stored individually or within a self-defined folder and sub-folder structure (folder icon).
  • The pencil icon allows edits to be made to an item: make annotations public or private, add further notes, change folder location etc.
  • The globe icon shows annotations made for an item.
  • From the workspace you can conduct a new search, browse the collection, change your password and logout of your account.

2.6. Result List


  • Hits are shown in a numbered list.  The number of hits per page and out of how many in total are shown with ‘MORE>’ accessing the next page of hits.
  • Each hit includes the newsbook title, issue number, date of publication and shelfmark, as well as two lines of text surrounding the keyword(s) to lend some context to the search. Keywords are highlighted in yellow. Titles which have been previously clicked are a different colour.
  • Options in the top right allow sorting the list by date and title, and starting a new search.
  • The tick and cross buttons bring up show/discard options.


  • When logged in, search result lists  can be saved by clicked on the + in the top right corner. This brings up a box (below) in which the search can be named and annotated. The default  title is ‘Search for ‘keyword(s)’.


2.7. Show/Discard Tool



  • These tools offer options for refining a search result list. The show tool options are: show only hits from this title/year/month and year/issue. The discard tool options are: discard this hit, discard hits from this title/year/month and year/issue.

2.8. Result Page


  • A result is displayed with the source image (if user has permission to access images) on the left and transcription on the right. Each pane has options to zoom in and out and move around the page. The image can be dragged around with the mouse and zoomed in and out with the mouse scroll wheel or the ‘-’ and ‘+’ keys. The same applies for moving the transcription around, however, zooming in and out is done using the + and – buttons in the top right corner.


  • Guidance for moving around the image and transcription appears under the two panes.
  • There are various navigation options around a result page: previous/next issue; title/previous/next page. The current page of the pamphlet is also indicated in the middle at the top of the viewing panes.
  • It is also possible to return to the results list or conduct a new search from this page.


  • At the bottom of the result page is a list of other titles published in the same week as the pamphlet being viewed, offering more browsing options around the issue.

2.9. Result Page (Logged In)


  • An account holder’s view of a result page has several enhanced options. The page can be saved either by clicking on the + in the top right hand corner of the screen next to username, or by clicking on ‘Save this page’. Appointed “super-users” can directly correct transcription errors by clicking on the pencil icon in the right hand corner of the transcription pane.


  • At the bottom of the viewing panes is an option to add an annotation to a page and any existing annotations are also displayed here. Users who do not have an account will also see annotations displayed here if they have been made publicly viewable.


  • Clicking on the + icon ‘Save this page’ or Add Annotation brings up a box allowing the user to edit the  default title (title, issue, date and shelfmark), add annotations and make them public, choose an existing folder to which to assign the item or create a new folder.