How to improve Search adoption

In my previous post, I have emphasized the importance of improving content quality. However, when it comes to the success of search, there are many more to consider.

The primary question is always how search helps the users with getting their jobs done better and faster.

If it provides relevant results in a way the users need and like, search adoption can be very good. However, if the results are not relevant, outdated, and/or the users don’t like the user interface, search easily becomes abandoned.

In this post, I collected the most important search configuration options that help search adoption. Of course, there’s no “silver bullet” plan that works for every organization with 100% success guarantee, but they definitely will help make your search adoption much easier.

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Content relevancy
Relevancy of the search results is one of the primary keys to search adoption. Ranking is the way the items are sorted in the result set by a numeric “rank” value, which is calculated based on several static and dynamic factors.

In SharePoint, there are several ways to influence an item’s ranking:

  • Query Rules
  • Search Schema (managed property weight)
  • Ranking models.

In SharePoint, there are several ranking models. Each of them is optimized for different use cases. In many cases, these out-of-the-box ranking models provide “good enough” relevancy for most users, but sooner or later, most of the companies need some tuning/customization here.

User Experience
Once we have the right and relevant content, the next thing to focus on is the user experience: The more we know about our users and their needs, the more we can help them.

The challenge is that we have to provide relevant information to everyone, on a user interface that is as much personalized as possible: different users need different information, presented in different ways. Considering the implementation of search this way might be not obvious for the first sight. However, this is the best way to help our users quickly finding what they want.

Usually this requires a well-planned analysis of users’ intent and behavior, as well as a detailed implementation plan. While planning, there are several things to consider and configure, which I summarize on an infographic here.

The most important considerations from the perspective of search adoption are:<

  • Search pages / verticals;
  • What results are displayed (included) and hidden (excluded) on each page;
  • How to sort the results – see ranking above;
  • Refiners on each page;
  • Display templates – how the items are displayed on each page.

If you plan and implement these properly, you’re on a good way to have a good user experience, which is key to search adoption.

Conclusions
As you can see, success and good adoption of search relies on the quality and completeness of results, and the user experience. Implementing a “good” search is much more than applying the proper technologies: we have to understand our users’ intent, and configure search according to them.

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