Is/are there resources or discussions focused on the methods, techniques, or approaches that best fit different common office applications?

For example, suppose I have genealogy data from 5 different sources: Census Records, Birth Records, Death Records, Probate Records and Cemetery Records. Each set of records has different fields and are contained in different tables.

I want to design a search method. I know there's a multitude of search options, by name within certain fields, or dates or date ranges, by soundex, etc. ad. nauseum.

I guess what I'm asking, is, if there's a place to get ideas on the best ways of designing a user interface to accommodate different kinds of data retrieval actions without getting into the technical nuts and bolts of how to do the actual application activities.

What might work best? ... a form? a custom Excel frontend? What kind of controls will I need?

This has been a difficult question for me to compose, but I guess the best description of what I'm looking for is information on how to design things that are (I hate to use this old hack, but...) 'User Friendly'.