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SharePoint 2013 Search Part 3 – User Experience and WebParts

Microsoft has really targeted the user experience in 2013 Search and there are a whole host of improvements which will I think impress our users. They include:

  • We can now see search results as we type into the search box.
  • We have some very nice visual refinement available like the new Date Slider. Creating date range refinement in 2010 just never seemed to please everybody; there was always somebody for whom the ranges did not work. We can also perform ‘search within’ on a refinement field helping us deal with a long list of values to choose from e.g. authors.

Date Slider

  • We now have full document preview in the browser for Word and PowerPoint documents. In my experience, document preview is huge for quickly assessing relevance. There are ISVs out there selling some great products in this area. I think they still have some good additional benefits but it’s great to see basic document preview OOTB.
  • Search is also now personal, showing the user their recently accessed items much like a best bets experience.

For administrators, there are a number of improvements to search WebParts and their configuration via WebPart properties. For starters, the new Content Search WebPart (CSWP) is a fantastic addition to our search customization toolkit!

Most importantly the CSWP contains a highly featured and versatile Query Builder for constructing the query which drives the results displayed. There’s a Quick or Advanced mode, depending on how much code you want to write. The interface walks us through basic filtering, refinement, sorting, configuration and test of the query generated. The Test stage is really useful for providing the administrator immediate feedback on whether their query is working as expected. The example shows how we can filter to a list called ‘Sports’ and by a property called ‘FunRating’:
CSWP Query Builder Filter
I think the Query Builder really opens up search configuration to a much wider audience. It takes the development of a search results WebPart from something which was historically a development activity to something a SharePoint administrator can perform. The Query Builder also crops up in a number of places to help us build query configuration.
Note: The CSWP WebPart is not to be confused with the Content Query WebPart (CQWP). The CSWP uses the search index, the CQWP queries SharePoint directly.
Search Refinement is also made much easier to configure. I have frequently encountered situations where an administrator is comfortable with creating and editing WebPart properties but  there is a barrier the moment they need to write some XML configuration. Previously, we had to define refiners by writing XML configuration but now there is a ‘Choose Refiners…’ button on the Refiner WebPart launching a ‘Refinement configuration’ interface. The example shows adding a refinement property called ‘FunRating’:
Refinement Configuration
SharePoint 2013 Search Series:
SharePoint 2013 Search Part 1 – What happened to FAST?
SharePoint 2013 Search Part 2 – Richer Query Language
SharePoint 2013 Search Part 3 – User Experience and WebParts
SharePoint 2013 Search Part 4 – Search Result Customization
SharePoint 2013 Search Part 5 – Search-based Solutions

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Chris Hines

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