Guest Blog by Josh Noble: Pro SharePoint 2010 Search

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the new Apress book, Pro SharePoint 2010 Search, by Josh Noble, Robert Piddocke, and Dan Bakmand-Mikalski.

Front cover: Pro SharePoint 2010 Search, by Josh Noble, Robert Piddocke, & Dan Bakmand-Mikalski

The Importance of Quality Findability

If you are reading this book, then most likely your organization has decided to take the leap into SharePoint 2010. Unfortunately, more often than not the platform is selected before anyone determines how it will be used. This leaves a large gap between what the platform is capable of achieving and what is actually delivered to users. The goal of this book is to bridge the gap between what SharePoint can do to connect users with information, and what it does do for your users to connect them with their information.

By default, most of the world's computer owners have a browser home page set to a search engine. Search is the first tool we rely on to find the needle we need in a continuously expanding haystack of information. People expect search to quickly return what they are looking for with high relevancy and minimal effort. Improvements catering to effective Internet search have raised user expectations, which should be seen as a call to action for improved web site and portal design, not an opportunity to manage expectations. If this call to action is not met, however, business will be lost to completion for web sites, and intranet users will find shortcuts to the desired content management practices.

Consider your own experiences on your favorite global search engine. If the web site you are looking for does not appear within the first (or maximum, second) page of search results, then you most likely change your query, utilize a different search engine, or simply give up. Users on SharePoint portals exhibit the same behavior. After a few attempts to find an item, users will abandon search in favor of manual navigation to document libraries or the shared drives that SharePoint was designed to replace. Users eventually begin to assume that once items find their way into the chasm of the intranet, the only chance of retrieving them again is to know exactly where they were placed. It is for these reasons that implementing an effective search experience in SharePoint 2010 is one of the most important design considerations in SharePoint. If users cannot easily find information within your SharePoint deployment, then they cannot fully leverage the other benefits of the platform.

The Value of Efficient Search

It is obvious that in today's economy it is more important than ever to make every dollar count. Organizations cannot sit back and ignore one of the largest wastes of man-hours in many companies. According to a 2007 IDC study, an average employee spends 9.5 work-hours a week just searching for pre-existing information. What's worse is that six hours a week are spent recreating documents that exist but cannot be found. With this information, combined with the statistic that users are typically successful with their searches only about 40% of the time, the cost of a poor search solution can quickly compound to quite a large burden on a company of any size.

Let's say that an employee is paid $75,000 a year for a 40-hour work week and 50 weeks a year (2,000 hours). Based on this, the employee earns $37.50/hour before benefits. Applying the statistics just cited, you can see that the cost per week to find information is $337.50/week ($16,875 annual), and the cost to recreate information is $225.00/week ($11,250 annual). This being said, the cost per employee at this rate would be $28,125/year for a poor findability and search solution. In a different deployment scenario, assume 500 employees earning $20 per hour, with just one hour loss per user/month. In just three months, the waste due to poor search is $30,000 in wasted wages. That is an extra employee in many companies.

From these statistics, it is clear that well-designed search is a key driver of efficiency within companies. This book helps you to achieve this efficiency with search. It provides a full range of topics to help you design a SharePoint search portal that quickly connects users with their information. We pull from our experience working with SharePoint search every day to provide expert advice on the topics that matter when building a SharePoint search center that really works. Although designing and implementing a quality search experience does take time, this book places the ability within the grasp of every SharePoint 2010 deployment. 

Why Is This Book Useful?

This book has been written to address what no other single resource has been dedicated to tackle, search in SharePoint 2010 (SPS 2010). While there are other books that spend a brief chapter to touch on search in SharePoint 2010, scattered information in Microsoft documentation and on blogs, and SharePoint search books that actually focus more on FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint than SharePoint's own search capabilities, at the time of this book's publication, there are no other books devoted explicitly to the search offering included in SharePoint 2010. General SharePoint resources may spend 50 pages summarizing the Microsoft documentation on search, but they cannot do more than scratch the surface in such an abbreviated space. Other search-focused books explain the theoretical concepts of enterprise search, or jump heavily into Microsoft's new product, FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint. This book, by contrast, is beneficial to all deployments of SharePoint 2010. The information presented throughout is applicable to standard and enterprise editions of the platform. Due to the great amount of overlap, it is also widely useful for deployments of Search Server 2010 and Search Server 2010 Express.

While there are many technical resources about SharePoint 2010 available that were produced with Microsoft oversight, this is not one of them. As a result, this book is able to dive into the hard-to-find details about search in SharePoint 2010 that are not widely exposed. We hope this book will help teach you how to do what consultants charge a fortune to do, and help you understand the best way to do it. We share our years of experience maximizing SharePoint and other enterprise search engines. We not only take a look inside the machine and show you the gears, but also explain how they work, teach you how to fix the problem cogs, and help you add efficiency upgrades.

This book is an end-to-end guide covering the breadth of topics from planning to custom development on SPS 2010. It is useful for readers of all skillsets that want to learn more about the search engine included in SharePoint 2010. After reading this book, you will be able to design, deploy, and customize a SharePoint 2010 Search deployment and maximize the platform's potential for your organization.

 

Who Is This Book Written for? 

Quite a bit of energy was put into insuring this book is useful for everyone with an interest in SharePoint 2010 Search. It was purposefully written by a SharePoint developer, a SharePoint administrator, and a business consultant so that each could contribute in his respective areas of expertise. The chapters have been designed to evenly cater to three primary readers: users, administrators, and developers.

We recognize that most readers will not utilize this book cover to cover. To make it more useful for the varying areas of interest for reader groups, instead of meshing topics for various groups into each chapter, we have designed the chapters to primarily touch on topics for one reader group. For example, Chapter 5 was written to teach users about using the search user interface, Chapter 10 sticks to the administrator topic of utilizing farm analytics to improve search relevancy, and Chapter 9 teaches developers how to build custom connectors for the BCS. No matter your level of expertise, there are topics in this book for anyone with an interest in getting the most out of search in SharePoint 2010.

The following are some of the key topics throughout the book that will be useful for readers with various needs. 

Topics for Users

  • Components of the search interface: Chapter 5 provides a thorough walkthrough of the various components of the search interface, including the locations of features and how they work.
  • Setting alerts: Chapter 5 explains alerts and provides a guide on how to use and set them.
  • Query syntax: Chapter 5 provides a full guide to the search syntax, which can be used in query boxes throughout SharePoint to expand or refine searches.
  • Using the Advanced Search page: Chapter 5 outlines the Advanced Search page and how it can be used to expand and scope queries.
  • Using people search: Chapter 5 teaches the components of the people search center and how to use the people search center.
  • Using the Preferences page: Chapter 5 explains when the Preferences page should be used and how to use it.

 

Topics for Administrators

  • Managing the index engine: Chapter 3 goes into detail on setting up the crawler for various content sources, troubleshooting crawl errors, and using iFilters.
  • Deploying search centers: Chapter 4 explains the techniques and considerations for deploying search centers.
  • Configuring the search user interface: Chapter 6 builds on Chapter 5 by providing a detailed walkthrough on configuring search Web Parts, search centers, and search-related features.
  • Setting up analytics and making use of analytical data: Chapter 10 focuses on the setup of SharePoint reporting and using the data to improve business processes and relevancy.
  • Tuning search result relevancy: Chapter 10 provides detailed instruction regarding how to improve search result relevancy by using features such as authoritative pages, synonyms, stop words, the thesaurus, custom dictionaries, ratings, keywords, and best bets.
  • Managing metadata: Chapter 10 dives into the uses of metadata in SPS 2010 Search, how to set up metadata, and how to use it to improve relevancy of search results.
  • Creating custom ranking models: Chapter 10 ends by covering the advanced topic of utilizing PowerShell to create and deploy custom relevancy ranking models.
  • Enhancing search with third-party tools: Chapter 11 discusses commercial third-party tools that enhance search beyond functionality available with light custom development.

 

Topics for Developers

  • Adding custom categories to the refinement panel Web Part: Chapter 6 discusses the most essential search Web Part customizations, including how to add new refinement categories to the refinement panel Web Part.
  • Designing custom search layouts: Chapter 7 covers subjects necessary to design a search interface with a custom look and feel. Topics necessary for this include manipulation of master pages, CSS, and XSLTs.
  • Modifying the search result presentation: Chapter 7 provides instruction for changing result click actions and editing the information returned for each search result with XSL modifications.
  • Improving navigation in search centers: Chapter 7 gives detailed instruction for adding site navigation to the search interface, which is disabled by default.
  • Advanced customization of the refinement panel Web Part: Chapter 7 provides instruction for advanced customization of the refinement panel Web Part.
  • Creating custom search-enabled applications: Chapter 8 covers topics such as the search API and building custom Web Parts with Visual Studio 2010.
  • Creating Business Connectivity Services components: Chapter 9 exclusively covers end-to-end topics on connecting to external content sources through the Business Connectivity Services (BCS).

What Topics Are Discussed?

This book covers the end-to-end subject of search in SharePoint 2010. We start with a brief background on the available Microsoft search products and follow with key terms and a basic overview of SPS 2010 Search. The book then guides readers through the full range of topics surrounding SharePoint search.

We start with architecture planning and move through back-end setup and deployment of the search center. We then jump into an overview of the key user-side features of search, followed by how to configure them. More advanced topics are then introduced, such as custom development on the user interface, leveraging the BCS to connect to additional content sources, and how to use search analytics to improve relevancy. The book is capped off with a chapter on how improve search beyond the limitations of the base platform.

While this provides a general overview of the path of the book, each chapter contains several key topics that we have found to be important to fully understand SharePoint 2010 Search from the index to the user experience.

This Is Not MOSS 2007

While skills picked up during time spent with MOSS 2007 are beneficial in SPS 2010, relying on that expertise alone will cause you to miss a lot. There have been significant changes between MOSS 2007 and SharePoint 2010. Search not only received improvement, but also underwent complete paradigm shifts. The old Shared Services Provider architecture has been replaced with the SharePoint 2010 service application architecture, creating unique design considerations. The MOSS 2007 Business Data Catalog (BDC) has been replaced with the Business Connectivity Services (BCS), unlocking new ways to read and write between SharePoint and external content sources. Index speed, capacity, and redundancy options have all been improved to cater to expanding enterprise search demands. Even the query language has been completely revamped to allow for Boolean operators and partial word search.

Throughout this book, we have taken special care to note improvements and deviations from MOSS 2007 to assist with learning the new platform. Captions pointing out changes will help you to efficiently pick up the nuances of SharePoint 2010. Direct feature comparisons are also provided to assist with recognizing new potential opportunities for improving search. 

Note from the Authors

Our goal is not only to teach you the facts about search in SharePoint 2010, but also to give you the basic tools to continue your learning. Creative applications for SharePoint search are always evolving. Use the knowledge gained in this resource to explore the continuing evolution of knowledge throughout your company, peers, and the Web. As you build your SharePoint search environments, make sure to always keep the users' experiences in mind. Solicit feedback, and continue to ask yourself if the search tool you are creating will help users change search into find.

This book is the product of countless hours of planning, research, and testing. It is the combined efforts of many people, including Apress editors, Microsoft, SharePoint consultants, bloggers, clients, and our colleagues at SurfRay. With these people's support, we have designed this book's content and structure to teach you all the essentials of search in SharePoint 2010. As you continue on to Chapter 1, we hope that you enjoy reading this book to the same extent we have enjoyed writing it for you.


Posted May 31 2011, 01:30 PM by Josh Noble

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About Josh Noble

Josh, the co-author of Pro SharePoint 2010 Search, has made a career on the front lines diagnosing business pains and alleviating them with technology. As the Sales Manager for SurfRay Inc., Josh has worked with global clients such as the American Bar Association, Best Buy, Intel, the U.S Coast Guard, and Conoco Phillips to build solutions to business problems through expertly designed search solutions for SharePoint, based on SurfRay’s powerful Ontolica® software.

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