Searching, looking for content

We changed our website search facility to make it faster and easier to find content.

During the top task workshops that we ran in 2017, we heard from people loud and clear that they didn’t like the website search facility. Therefore, we knew we would have the improvement of search at the core of the project.

In 2020 our legacy search engine had over 840,000 page views whilst our new one has had over 365,000 page views. That makes those pages our third and sixth most popular pages respectively. External search engines accounted for over 2.7M visits to our site during 2020. There are a lot of searches happening for content on our website.

Undergraduate course pages were the first section launched on the new platform in July 2019 and since then our new website search engine has been in place to allow searching of new structured content that has been migrated.

As Danny mentioned in his last blog post, Tackling policies and corporate information on the University website

Don’t make me think

The information architecture of traditional organisational websites often forces users to navigate and understand the organisational hierarchy to access crucial information like policies. Unwittingly they make it difficult for users by publishing the information in silos across the website.

Information foraging

Improving how users find this content is one part of our challenge. Another is making it easier to recognise and understand the content when they come across it.

Search card for policy content on the new University website
Search card for policy content on the new University website
Search card for a privacy notice

Search card for a privacy notice

When you use search on the new website you will be searching structured content that is filterable and labelled. For example, the two search cards above are for a Policy and a Privacy notice.

You will be able to filter search results by type of content. For example, if you were looking for a course, you would select Course from the filter options.

The available options to filter by are:

  • Announcement
  • Corporate information (such as policies)
  • Course
  • Facility
  • Group
  • Guide
  • Location
  • Module
  • Person
  • Project
  • Story
  • Subject

There are still a number of sections on our old website, that are to be migrated yet, and we have created pointers to those that are searchable. We examined the top five hundred searches in 2020 when assessing the old sections that needed pointers. The top five hundred searches had more than one hundred searches per year. This ensured we covered the majority of searches that were happening. For example, scholarships.

Scholarships search card
Scholarships search card

By using structured content types and having a search engine only index them, this ensures that the new search is a vast improvement on the last.

We are, however, constantly iterating and improving search but if there is something that you can’t find then let us know.

Happy searching.

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