Things users complain about with Enteprise Search

Posted Friday, February 1, 2008 11:10 AM by CoreyRoth

MOSS Enterprise Search has proven to be a great tool for allowing users to search Line of Business systems and documents at the same time.  Out of the box, the Search Center provides some great looking search resuts.  However I keep hearing the same two things about it.

SearchStats Web Part does not display accurate results counts

This is becoming a fairly well known issue and I think its most likely by design, but it drives users crazy.  It doesn't seem to be an issue until you get a fairly decent amount of results.  I find that customers use this as a test of accuracy of your search index.  In a case where you are pulling data using the BDC from a LOB system, a lot of times the user knows that there are exaclty X widgets in that system.  So when the results count displays X - 373 items, they start asking questions.

Search Center does not support wildcard search

Pretty much everyone that has worked with Enterprise Search and has a SharePoint blog has complained about this one.  Microsoft decided to use keyword syntax for searching using the SearchBox web part.  Maybe, my post will be the 100th post and will get someone to consider doing something about it.  Normally this is fine but it doesn't support wildcard searching.  You would think you could just inherit from CoreResultsWebPart and change the way it gets the search results, but no someone decided it would be a good idea to mark the SearchResultsHiddenObject as internal.  Therefore, you really can't change the way this web part gets its results.  This means you would have to write your own CoreResultsWebPart from scratch.  This isn't inheritenly dificult because the search API is pretty easy to use and you can easily bind it to a ListView.  Of course by doing this, you lose connectivity to all the other web parts.  So that means you need to write connectivity to the SearchStats, Paging, BestBets, etc., web parts.  We should just be able to inherit from the existing parts right?  Nope, someone decided it would be a great idea to mark all of those classes sealed.  Honestly, why are these classes sealed?  That is rediculous.  So what it comes down to is that you have to rewrite the entire search center.  This is sad because the change required to implement wild card search could be done with about 2 lines of code.  Rewriting the Search Center is the approach Modosoft's Ontolica took.

I have mentioned in the past that Ontolica Wildcard Search is out there.  This product works fairly well at wildcard searching, it's free, but there are limitations in the free version.  The free version is basically a selling tool for their full product.  Ontolica took the approach that I described above and they created a whole new Search Center.  The full product is pretty nice and has nice grouping capability and various other ways to filter the data.  However, what I don't like about it is that it adds an additional layer of abstraction.  It requires you to map your managed properties to its own concept of properties.  Also it doesn't look like I can use the open source Search Facet web parts with it (someone correct me if I am wrong on this).  So in order to provide the same level of functionality, I would have to convince the client to fork over additional money to purcahse an Ontolica license.  That being said, if your client is willing to pay for a license, I do think it's a decent solution to the problem.  It has been a few months since I have looked at Ontolica, so if anything has changed with the product, feel free to let me know so I can take a look.

Things users like...

Ok, well I can't just focus on the things users complain about, because there are a ton of things they like.  They like being able to find all of their information in one place (espeically anything that indexes into other systems).  The Search Facet controls have always been a huge hit as well.  Users love drilling down into their data.

Anyhow, the point of my post today is to hopefully adds some more fuel to the fire and hopefully we can see a change some time in the future.

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