Search Driven Portals – Personalizing Search

To stay in the front edge within search technology, Findwise has a focus on research, both in the form of larger research projects and with different thesis projects. Mohammad Shadab and I just finished our thesis work at Findwise, where we have explored an idea of search user interfaces which we call search driven portals. User interfaces are mostly based on analysis of a smaller audience but the final interface is then put in production which targets a much wider range of users. The solution is in many cases static and cannot easily be changed or adapted. With Search driven portals, which is a portlet based UI, the users or administrators can adapt the interface specially designed to fulfill the need for different groups. Developers design and develop several searchlets (portlets powered by search technology), where every searchlet provides a specific functionality such as faceted search, results list, related information etc. Users can then choose to add the searchlets with functionality that suits them into their page on a preferred location. From architectural perspective, searchlets are standalone components independent from each other and are also easy to reuse.

Such functionality includes faceted search which serves as filters to narrow a search. These facets might need to be different based on what kind of role, department or background users have. Developers can create a set of facets and let the users choose the ones that satisfy their needs. Search driven portals is a great tool to make sure that sites don’t get flooded with information as new functionalities are developed. If a new need evolves, or if the provider comes with new ideas, the functionality is put into new searchlets which are deployed into the searchlet library. The administrator can broadcast new functionality to users by putting new searchlets on the master page, which affects every user’s own site. However, the users can still adjust new changes by removing the new functionality provided.

Search driven portals opens new ways of working, both in developer and usage perspective. It is one step away from the one size fits all concept, which many sites is supposed to fulfill. Providers such as Findwise can build a large component library which can be customized into packages for different customers. With help of the searchlet library, web administrators can set up designs for different groups, project managers can set up a project adjusted layout and employees can adjust their site after their own requirements. With search-driven portals, a wider range of users needs can more easily be covered.

One thought on “Search Driven Portals – Personalizing Search

  1. I think the biggest advantage of the search driven portals is the ease of customization. I have worked in projects where we build search driven applications that embed personalization. But it is not something that comes out of the box in any search application.

    With the use of portlet technology and using so called searchlets the architecture is built for customization. So one can start off small with a standardized search experience for all users. After a while once one has more knowledge of the different user groups as well as statistics on their search behavior one can customize searchlets to improve the search experience for different user groups. So administrators can help push certain searchlets with specific functionality to groups of users and users can themselves adjust their own personal settings.

    Another advantage of search driven portals is one that is often forgotten. Search is more than just the search box and result list. With searchlets one can use search technology to integrate content from different sources. One can use search to display relevant information from a different system in the context where the user needs it. It can also be used for providing an overview of content on a start page on the intranet or portal. Searchlets promotes search technology as an integrator of content.

    What do you think? Where would searchlets be of most use to your organization?

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