Users were given the opportunity to submit comments with their online survey and a modest 86 respondents seized the opportunity. However, many of the comments are quite telling and very important for future HEIRs to look at when considering future developments of their sites. The user comments could be grouped into the following categories: user friendliness, areas of interest, discovery, and resources.
Many users reported difficulties using HEIRs and resources provided by HEIRs:
"Often it is difficult to find the resources required due to inconsistency in naming objects and material types. I am not sure how to get round this, as some in of the schemes the broad terms include much too wide a range of material. The more specific terms are not used consistently."
"One problem I have is occasionally not having the appropriate version of a program in order to view the more advanced information, e.g. interactive maps."
Others had problems with searching for information or with determining the usefulness or purpose of HEIRs that they have come across in their searches.
"One of the problems I've had is that databases are often set up so that none of my keywords provide any information, or they are structured so I get thousands of references and can't narrow down with an advanced search..."
"There are too many different initiatives with fancy names and buzzwords trying to do roughly the same sorts of things. These should be consolidated and actually given names that mean something."
Many users asked where to find out more about the resources listed in the survey, often hoping that someone could get back to them with a list, or a link to a list with these websites. This is despite link pages like Humbul not doing particularly well in the survey.
"Whilst partaking in this survey, it has come to my notice that there are a lot of resources available to me that I am unaware of. I feel that it would be beneficial to both me and the providers of these resources, if they were advertised in places that researchers would see them and would then be able to access them."
"It would be great if all the research sites cited above were linked to from one central research resource - I have found A2A and PRO links pages very useful."
"I imagine I would use more of these sources if I knew about them. Many are completely new to me. Some, of course, are only useful in particular situations. It also depends how long it takes to access sources, and if one has the time to browse them (generally not possible during term time given teaching commitments)."
Other respondents wished there was a way to find out about updates to sites, without having to look them up again and again. Possibly in the form of a news page or an RSS news feed from HEIRNET, or through a well-circulated print media.
"There is an increasingly bewildering variety of resources available. I have looked at some time ago and rejected as being not very useful, only to find that later more aspects are added and that these sites do contain useful information. E.g. Canmore now is most impressive, whereas in the past it was not very informative."
"I would like to see internet resources given better publicity in printed journals. Those of us who spend our working life sitting in front of a computer often do not wish to spend time surfing speculatively but would look at a specific site if we knew it existed."
Many users had different areas of interest, both geographically and topically, not covered by the HEIRs listed in the survey. Many apologized for perhaps skewing the results of the survey because they were interested in other parts of the world besides the UK, despite being UK-based archaeologists or researchers. Other researchers complained that their topic of interest was poorly represented in the mentioned HEIRs, and were difficult to find anywhere in the online Archeology and Historic Environment community.
"Resource required specifically dedicated to Historic transport, (Rail, Air, Sea and Road) none appears to be available to me at the moment"
"Perhaps I should note that my degree is in Egyptian Archaeology - hence I have never heard of half of the databases listed..."
"I was trying to find some information relevant to widening participation and inclusion but there appears to be nothing so far - I find the site so far extremely excluding"
A few users asked about increased access to specific resource types:
"I'm investigating the criteria used by public bodies such as CABE and English Heritage to evaluate historic buildings and their influence on new developments. I'm looking for meeting minutes, conference proceedings and any other records for St. Pancreas [sic] Station and Chambers since the 1960s to the present and Paternoster Square from the same period."
"It would be very useful to me to have access to indices of foreign periodicals in order to download articles from foreign periodicals; also to have access to listings of websites detailing my specific area of interest (Roman samian ware) would be useful."
All user comments can be found in a link on the right-hand side of your screen. Some may be quite useful to particular websites. The diversity of comments and the frustration behind some of the comments indicates a rich and interesting area for discussion boards and focus groups in future surveys by HEIRNET.