Case Study : UX for a New Product Category

An opportunity to be involved in the creation of a new product category is rare. This is the story of MetaLib -- The first federated search engine used in large research setting.

The Product

  • Federated Search - a new class of a search engine

  • One query - Simultaneous search into multiple electronic resources - Unified UX for managing results

  • No real competition in the market, No established conventions for handling the experience

  • Highly customizable by the organization + White labeling

The Approach

Partnerships & Collaboration

  • Formed a team of cross-office of business, sales, marketing and engineering stakeholders to define and review emerging design work

  • Formed a North-American subset of the already established UI Focus Group. Partnered with Harvard, MIT and others to help define and shape the product

  • Convinced customers that an MVP approach will serve us all better than a fully realized product

  • Visits to client sites for concept demonstrations, discussions, feedback, demon - develop rapport with end-users who turned advocates

Design Principles

  • Shield the user from the underlying complexities of federated search
  • Communicate high-speed performance - real or perceived
  • Contextual messaging about the availability, relevancy, and ranking of searched resources
  • Support for ad-hock opportunistic quires,  and long-term, multi-user research efforts
  • What happens AFTER the search is more important than the query - Management, organization and customization of search results must be easy and safe

Approach and Methods

  • Conceptual assumptions about the experience constantly re-evaluated as we learned more
  • Using my workflow tool, clusters identified, prioritized and evaluated in small batches, validated and blended into the framework
  • Extensive use of rapid iterative prototyping for validation
  • Commitment to scraping “validated” design if needed: Because performance was critical for adoption, extensive experiments with early beta sites sometimes meant a redesign.


  • MetaLib was released to early adopters within 6 month and quickly became a success
  • Adoption by many of the most prestigious organizations in the world followed
  • More than a decade later, my design is still in production despite the availability of new versions.
  • I was fortunate to lead and evolve the product's UX from inception through release


Ezra Schwartz