Welcome. If this is your first time visiting this blog, you may want to read the Welcome and Intro
post, which explains what this blog is all about.
This week we’ll look at some recent and upcoming changes to the Support Center’s Search. Results from an online survey conducted last September indicate that roughly 80% of Support Center visitors primarily use the Search tool to find information on the site. (The other 20% prefer to use the tabs and links to browse for information.) Given that searching is so important to so many of us, we’re going to be (and have been) giving the Support Center Search tool a good bit of attention. An important note:
page. That said, the information presented here should give you a reasonably good idea of what’s going on.
– What Won’t Change —
Before getting into the changes, let me assure you: We fully understand that major changes in the behavior of the Search can cause serious problems when you’re trying to find answers to critical issues and time is short. We won’t make significant changes to the core behavior of the current Search tool without giving plenty of advance notice here. Here’s what I mean by “core behavior”: a search on a particular set of keywords should return basically the same results, in basically the same order, as were returned prior to the change. None of the changes currently in the works should negatively impact the core behavior of the existing Search… but if you find that a search you did before no longer returns the desired results, please let us know
– Recent Changes —
A couple subtle changes have been made in the past few months:
- It is now possible to find specific public bug articles by searching on the bug number; for example, NIM005296 or CQ00287204. Note: This isn’t exactly what Matt asked for recently, but it might be considered another small step towards a published bugs and enhancements list.
- If you perform a search using just a five-digit article number (like 29129), the desired technical article will appear at the top of the search results list. Previously, the article could have appeared anywhere in the search results.
– Upcoming Changes —
You’ll soon be seeing some changes that should make the Search tool easier to use. Here’s what’s happening:
- The Search will move into the banner area, just below the tabs. The benefits of doing this include:
In addition, the new placement means we’ll have more room for displaying advanced search settings.
- Increased availability. The Search box will be available from (almost) anywhere on the Support Center, even on pages where the left sidebar disappears.
- More room to type. The Search text box will be much longer, allowing you to see more of the keywords you’ve entered.
- “Remember my search settings” option. We’re working on an option to have your customized search settings remembered between visits. Actually, the existing Search will already do this: If you click the “edit search settings” button, make changes, and then perform a search, your selected settings will still be in effect the next time you visit the Support Center. What we want to do is make this an option and let you decide whether you want to use it or not.
- Indicate when search settings have been customized. Each time I visit the Support Center, I always forget that the customized search settings from my last visit are still in effect. I could be the only one who has this problem… but just to be sure, we’re going to put a small label below the search text box to help remind you (and me) when custom search settings are in effect.
- Support for special characters. Our search engine recently received a minor software upgrade that allows us to configure exception characters. In a nutshell, this means that you will soon be able to do searches for C++, C#, AT&T, and other keywords that contain special characters that have historically been ignored by the search engine.
- Improved Help. The Search Help will be revised for improved usability.
All of the above Upcoming Changes are still under development, but I can share the following draft
screenshots with you. Yes, these are draft
and subject to change. That said, the two images below should give you some idea of what the revised Search tool will probably look like.
Here’s a shot of the new Search area as it appears by default. Note the word “(customized)” below the text box to indicate that my custom search options will be in effect when I perform my search.
Click to view full-size image.
When you click the “Open Search Options” link, the new Search area expands to show the options. Note the three small tabs near the top (“products”, “areas” and “display”); these tabs will show the same options as the current “edit search settings” button, but in a more user-friendly layout:
Click to view full-size image.
You might have noticed the “Welcome” text and “Login” link on the right side of the above screenshots. Upcoming changes to the Support Center login (and why anyone would want to log in) will be the subject of another post in the near future.
On a closing note: We are also considering possible revisions to the search results page, to make them easier to filter, sort and read. I’ll keep you posted on developments regarding the search results page, but at this time, we’re focusing on the Search interface on the home page (and indeed, on the home page in general) — stay tuned for more information!