Friday 12 September 2014

Our new NBS National BIM Library website

In the last few days the new version of our NBS National BIM Library has gone live. Our vision was to create a beautiful website that focused around the clear user need of finding BIM objects.

Fig 1 and 2 below show that the new home page has a central call to action to find BIM objects and also has a search box placed front and centre on every page. Furthermore, as the user starts to type our intelligent search technology suggests the most likely categories for the search returns. For example, in Fig 2, the user is searching for "boi" and "boilers in heating systems" is the search that is suggested. In Fig 3, the user is presented with the BIM objects relevant to this search within this top level category ready to download. This presents the information to the end user in one click, whereas clicking "search" to bring up a search box, then searching, then selecting "heating systems" would have been three clicks.
Fig 1 - The new NBS National BIM Library website
Fig 2 - Search suggestions
Fig 3 - Quickly find the objects that you need
The ability find objects through filtering is demonstrated nicely in the screenshots below. Fig 4 shows that 159 objects have been returned from a search for "Doors". Within these search results, the top ten categories are displayed to the left. The number of objects in each relevant category is shown so that the user is aware of this prior to refining their selection further.
Fig 4 - Search filters to narrow the results
In Fig 5 and Fig 6 the user refines the search further by selecting a sub-category to reduce the results to 30 doors and then a particular manufacturer to end with 4 objects from that specific manufacturer in that specific sub-category.
Fig 5 - Continue to narrow the results down using the filters
Fig 6 - Choose from generic NBS objects or manufacturer objects
In terms of discovering relevant content, a number of "widgets" have been introduced to the site. In the example in Fig 7 below, the user is on a page showing a generic flat roof, below this object a number of relevant additional objects from across the library are shown. In Fig 8 a manufacturer's roof object is shown, in addition to the object is related content from such as an NBS specification or literature such as case studies, catalogues and manuals. This is particularly important. As much as BIM is a game changer, we will never reduce manufacturer products to just a digital object with geometry, properties, values and embedded functionality. There is always the need for additional information that specifiers need around the added-value services from the manufacturer and case studies of that product "in action".
Fig 7 - Relevant alternative objects presented on every object page
Fig 8 - Further information in terms of NBS specification and related literature is also linked to the object
New content is being published each week on the library. We have newly designed pages for browsing this content, either by category or by manufacturer name. Fig 9 shows that recently added and coming soon manufacturers are indicated with a small label.
Fig 9 - Almost a manufacturer for every letter of the alphabet now
In terms of site navigation, the menu bar at the top has three options:
(1) Find BIM objects - the primary purpose of the site - this allows users to browse for the content they need
(2) BIM tools and guides - this includes information about our plug-ins for the leading BIM design software (such as Revit and ArchiCAD - Fig 10) and information that is an introduction to BIM for those wanting to know more.
(3) For manufacturers - this has all of the information needed for manufacturers that want to start their BIM journey and join the library (Fig 11)
Fig 10 - Download NBS plug-ins for leading BIM design software
Fig 11 - Expert articles for designers and manufacturers that are new to BIM
Finally, Fig 12 shows that the NBS Research+Development team have carefully designed and developed each page so that the information is presented in an optimum way whether the user is on a PC, Mac, portable device such as an iPad or a mobile phone such as an iPhone.

Fig 12 - Every page individually crafted to render beautifully on a device of any size screen
So, we hope you like the site. We are still working hard on new enhancements that will build on this fantastic new platform. So watch this space for more great stuff on its way...


Update (12/09):
Our Digital Commerce Director Robin Cordy gives further insight into the site enhancements on an article on our website:


  1. Hi Stephen,
    I love the new website, particularly the drilldown options on the database. This is very useful and is essential when you've got a complex collection of products to showcase and the user might have a range of terms to look for.

    However, I've noticed that when you search for a term, not all items that relate to that term come up (for example, search for 'metal' and get drilldown options for all metal objects, but filter by 'Roofs' and don't get all the metal roofing products.

    The other thing is the home page is sooooo big on a desktop (I'm on Chrome here) and scrolling down is hurting my finger!

  2. Su,

    Thanks for your kind comments.

    In terms of page length - I imagine we'll have a good discussion about this next time we meet (hopefully over a beer) - an interesting article on this subject is

    I'll pass your search algorythm query onto to our developers.

    Good to hear from you - take care,


  3. Lol Stephen I didn't say I don't scroll, obviously everyone does. I'm talking about the way the site appears on a desktop computer. Like many people who work in the creative industries, I routinely have a browser window open at least 1300x800. Visit the site at this scale and everything is huge - the text, the amount of blank space. If I use the zoom function all that happens is the text gets smaller and the blank spaces get larger...
    I'm not picking on NBS, its a problem with many websites that have recently gone responsive. It seems to me that website designers have taken their eyes of the ball when it comes to desktop users, and wholly focused on the natty way the site works on mobile devices with smaller screens.