Well-designed websites make it easy for users to recognize how to use the website to meet their needs.
The sites tap into design conventions, commonly held expectations about what objects should be able to do in a given situation.
In the world of technology, design elements often become conventions because a popular program or website finds a solution that works, and other sites come to copy it.
Consider how Google's "minimalist" interface, featuring a large search box with few alternatives, became a convention for search engines. During the 1990s, more and more people switched to Google from older engines such as Yahoo, Excite and Lycos.
This was Yahoo's home page in the mid 2000s. And this was Google's:
Today Google's "single search box" and "clean" design is a ubiquitous presence on most websites and even dominates library interface design, though the convention originated in a commercial setting.
Recognizing some common interface elements across library databases will help you understand immediately how to use a new database.
These interface elements all take advantage of website design conventions.
Sometimes graduating seniors confess that they have never used any library databases other than JSTOR.
They learned to use JSTOR as first-years, or even in high school, and loved that it included the full text of articles. They went back to JSTOR again and again in other classes, even when they had a hard time finding relevant results.
Other databases go into greater depth in specific disciplines. For example, RILM (pictured above) is a music research database that covers hard-to-find conference proceedings and dissertations as well as music journals.
Don't hesitate to go beyond the databases you're used to using. Depending on what you're researching, a more specialized database may be just what you need.