Secret ingredients to quality software


Rules to Better Search

4 Rules

  1. Do you have a consistent search results screen? (aka the Google Grid)

    Every website out there has a page that displays the results of a search. I am amazed that no standard has been adopted throughout the Web as nearly every site seems to have a different way of displaying data.

    However, Google is a very good example for displaying search results. Their result pages are clear and efficient, especially for a large result set.

    results ssw
    Figure: Good example – adopt Google's search result layout

    So adopt Google's search result layout and it will give new and regular users a better navigation experience. Here's our standard layout for our search function.

    Want the 'Google grid'? Then follow these rules to help users to navigate:

    1. Filters at the top (if more than one search parameter,then add a "search" button)
    2. The number of results found + how many seconds the search took to execute
    3. A statement that explains the criteria that you used for searching (or keep the criteria in the text box like google does)
    4. The number of pages found (hyperlinks centered in the middle), and these hyperlinks should be shown on the footer of the page only.

    results filter
    Figure: The header of SSW results screen - filter, number of results found, search criteria and time taken

    results pagination
    Figure: Good example - The footer of SSW product order listing page has the hyperlinks for pages 1 to 10 centered

    results google
    Figure: Google's classic search results

  2. Do you know how to use SharePoint search?

    SharePoint search is a powerful tool for discovering information. Here are some tips to make sure you are getting the most from it. There are two things to consider regarding SharePoint search; firstly, how you save information to SharePoint to be more easily discoverable; secondly, how to perform searches within SharePoint.

    Here are some tips for performing searches:

    Know how to navigate SharePoint search – watch this video

    • Use the categories (top)
    • Use the filters (right navigation / faceted search)
    • Use the scope to go wider
    • Use the specific properties (see below)
    • People - Use Delve indexed properties (i.e. Skills)

    Search a specific property

    if you are familiar with the structure of the metadata in the content you're searching, you can restrict your searches to a property with the syntax <property>:<search term>. E.g. to search the filename field for the term "report", you would use "filename:report".

    Example of properties you can use (common ones);

    • Filetype:
    • CreatedBy:
    • ModifiedBy:
    • Title:


    filter sharepoint example
    Figure: Example of using Filetype: filter

    Use Boolean OR and AND operators Similar to Google and Bing, you can use OR and AND Boolean operators. E.g. "sharepoint AND search".

    Note: OR and AND must be capitalized, however, the case is irrelevant for actual search terms.

    Use an

    asterisk (*) wildcard for partial matches

    This can be useful if you know that certain words are used together, e.g. Fire* will return results for FireBootCamp.

    Note: Because of word stemming which is enabled by default in SharePoint 2019, 2016, and 2013, you do not need to use wildcards to find variations on words. For example, searching for "computer" will return results that contain "computers", so you do not need to search for "computer*".

    Use double quotes to find specific phrases

    E.g. search for "social media" to make sure you get results for social media, as opposed to results that simply contain the words "social" and "media" in the same document.

    Related Rules

  3. Do you know how to use Teams Search?

    Teams search is designed to help you quickly find the files you are collaborating on.

    From the main search box, you can search for:

    • Teams
    • Channels
    • Files
    • Messages
    • People

    If you start typing in the search box, you will see all Teams and Channels that matches your query:

    teams search 1
    Figure: Search results for "Training". The 1st two results are Teams, the 3rd one is a channel.Teams only show up with their title, while channels show with the name of the associated Team underneath

    teams search 2
    Figure: Teams result

    teams search 3
    Figure: Channel associated to a Team result Warning: If you hit enter, you will be redirected to the Messages, Files & People results. To see the Teams/Channels matching your query, simply click the search box again

    Once you've hit "Enter", you can search through the different tabs to find messages, people or files that match your query across all teams

    teams search 4
    Figure: Use the 3 built-in tabs to search through the different categories

    You can also use built in filters to refine your search, by clicking the "Filter" icon in Messages or Files tabs:

    teams search 5
    Figure: Built in filters for Messages (see #3)

    Important: Even though Teams search gives you quick access to all your messages and documents; the search is scoped to ONLY Teams, which means you cannot search for files hosted on SharePoint, OneDrive, other Office365 products (i.e. Delve/UserProfile) or external sources (i.e., etc...). For this reason, it is advised to use the SharePoint Search instead.

    Related Rule

  4. Do you use the search tool to find emails in Outlook?

    Looking manually through your Outlook sent items is something you shouldn't be doing. The better way is to use Outlook "search" functionality.

    Learn to narrow your search criteria for better searches in Outlook.

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