Thoughts on technology and innovation
Jason Lichon, Partner, BlueBolt Solutions & NPAL15 Sponsor
Not many website owners are happy with their site search. Often this unhappiness is accompanied by questions of how a search can be improved, and then created to be more effective for website visitors. If this sounds familiar, read on. In this blog we will outline some of the key considerations for exploring options to improve your website's search.
Get Federated - Let your Searchers Look In All the Right Places
Many search solutions only allow textual content to be identified via web crawler. This approach might omit important content, maybe even some easy to include. For instance, data that resides in your AMS- such as your membership directory, or your course listings, or product catalog - should these be included in search results? We think so! Content from micro-sites, such as your annual meeting site, or chapter sites? Those should also be included if important to users. Content hosted on outboard locations, such as your journal or your LMS, may also be missing. Event listings and/or job postings? We believe they are all worthy of consideration. And finally, if the search crawler is focused only on textual content, it probably isn't doing a good job of helping users find image and video content. We think such a search application is greatly lacking.
The fix is federation. We have seen requirements for federated search solutions often over the past several years, and it makes sense. A federated search is able to combine content from multiple data sources into a single repository, or search index, so that users can search across all of the included content in a single search instance. Federation should be high on your wish for your next generation search.
Your Search needs to be Tuned
Yes, it is likely your current search solution can be managed to work better than it does. In particular, the search can probably be tuned to provide results that are more relevant to your users. Too often the out of the box search function for a CMS platform is just "turned on" with no effort made to optimize.
The tuning process should start with an effort to identify common search phrases and an evaluation of how well these search phrases are handled by the search engine. If the engine isn't responding with the content expected AND in the priority desired, your tech team may be able to help, possibly just by configuring the solution provided.
If you are about to embark on the implementation of a new web platform, be sure time is allotted for tuning the search engine.
Search Results - Form Is Just as Important As Function
In some cases, the search engine does produce relevant results, but the presentation of those results is of little help, because searchers cannot interpret the results easily. The fix may be to improve the search results template (the presentation). Here are some examples of how to do so:
Consider An Outboard Engine - You May Need the Performance
If you are currently living with the default search function provided by your CMS, and you aren't pleased with the results, you may want to consider 3rd party search solutions. The benefits to a 3rd party solution can be broadly split into two categories: richer features, and better performance.
About BlueBolt, Nimblepalooza 2015 Sponsor: BlueBolt is a full service web development agency, providing project definition / user experience and content management system implementations to associations. Areas of expertise include Enterprise Site Search and advanced AMS integration. Visit www.blueboltsolutions.com to learn more.