This week’s Top 5 takes a look at the improved user and business related search features in SharePoint 2013. In addition, there are numerous technical changes to SharePoint search which will be covered in a future post.
Document preview gives users the ability to hover over search results and preview content without opening the document itself. Users are more productive, since they don’t need to open and search through each document to find what they are looking for. In addition, they are able to scroll through the entire document in the preview pane. In previous versions of SharePoint, this preview functionality was typically accomplished through third party tools or FAST, but it is now included in all editions of SharePoint 2013. Of course, there are limitations. The preview functionality uses Office Web Apps to show the preview, which means two things. First, only Office documents can be previewed. This leaves PDFs and other common document types left out. Second, you must have an Office Web Apps server, which could have infrastructure and administration implications. However, despite these limitations, document preview is a great out-of-the-box feature for search users.
FAST IS BUILT-IN
Although we’re focusing on user and business related search features, we can’t write about SharePoint 2013 search without highlighting the fact that most of the FAST search capabilities are now built-in. So, you can look at it as SharePoint 2013 search combining the best of SharePoint 2010 search and FAST search. This means a much more powerful and scalable search for your users, with more functionality, faster results, broader search capability and more.
A refiner is Microsoft’s term for additional filters or criteria that can be applied to further narrow search results. For example, a refiner could allow a user to filter search results to show only Microsoft Word documents or documents created in a certain date range. Refiners are not new to SharePoint 2013, but Microsoft has put a nice visual interface on top to improve usability. For example, you can now use a slider to select a date range for documents rather than picking static options, such as “30-60 days”, from a list. Additionally, refiners are more configurable in SharePoint 2013, meaning less customized work to enhance the search experience.
CONTENT SEARCH WEB PART
While some might categorize the Content Search Web Part (CSWP) as only a new web part, we consider this a great new search feature in SharePoint 2013. This is a powerful tool for enabling search driven sites, which enable personalization and promote stickiness. You can use this web part to display content on your intranet or internet site that comes from anywhere your SharePoint site is indexing, including content that is not in SharePoint. You can also leverage SharePoint’s powerful search engine to capture exactly what you want to display on your site and, using the new Display Templates functionality, easily customize the display of the results. For example, you might use the CSWP is to deliver personalized recommendations to a user based on their previous viewing. This is very powerful and engaging for the user.
SharePoint 2013 aims to make search more relevant to each user and the types of searching that user has done before. In SP2013, query suggestions now include items learned from a user’s behavior, and search results contain Personal Favorites, search results tailored to the user based on past search activity. Microsoft has made great strides with search capabilities in SharePoint 2013. These new search capabilities are geared toward improving the user’s search experience and therefore their overall experience within SharePoint. And as we have seen time and again, we know that improved user experience will increase adoption.