Making SharePoint search more user friendly

By - July 1, 2015

“Take it easy on me, It should be easy to see.” Sure, that is from the Little River Band – but that same concept should apply to search results in SharePoint. Those who serve as admins for SharePoint might benefit from thinking more like those boys.

We all know what SharePoint does, or is supposed to do – make finding and collaborating on documents/files easier and quicker for everyone. But, when it comes to searching for those files, sometimes we expect our users to just “get it,” because either:

  1. We have structured our top navigation and quick links according to their requirements, so how could it be strange/foreign/not useful?
  2. Everybody uses Google/Yahoo/Bing every minute of every day (after all, how else would you be reading this post?) and SharePoint search—especially in 2013—just works like they do

Believe me, I understand. Sometimes it happens that admins get too busy looking up the last correlation error, or finding that file/view/page/entire site collection that was “there yesterday, just is gone today” and take our users’ search experience for granted.

To that end, I wanted to share an idea that can take users’ experience with searching for what they want in SharePoint and make it less painful. You may already be doing this for your organization, but if not, you may be missing out on some features which really improve on what is likely one of the main reasons you implemented SharePoint in the first place: search.

Use Action Terms

In SharePoint 2013, there is a setting in search that you can use to create what could be called a “trigger word,” for search queries. The way it works is – whatever the user types first in the search box—either a word or an entire phrase—gets removed from the search query string and instead tells SharePoint to do something different with whatever words come after it.

An example would be the phrase “download march budge.” If a user types that into the search box, they’re not looking for a file that contains the word “download,” in it, they actually just want to download the “march budget,” file. Simple enough for a user to understand, but not the same for a search engine. Using the trigger word functionality in SharePoint search however, you will see the word “download,” at the beginning of that query, you then begin to think, “Okay, let me go find any file with ‘march’ or ‘budget’ in it, make sure I serve up results with download links filtered to the top.”

The beauty of search in 2013 is that SharePoint gives you the ability to define any word as an action term—not just something common like “download.” Imagine being able to train your intranet search engine to recognize those action words, and then treat them as triggers to perform more targeted/intelligent searches against a particular site/library/content type. The more documents and libraries that get added to SharePoint, the more need to be able to give users more control over how and what they are searching for, and this functionality can simply and quickly provide that ability.

Having implemented this already for a few of our customers, I can safely say that this is a sure-fire way to increase users’ happiness with search and improve user adoption rates for SharePoint.

To find out more about this or other ways that RSM can assist you with your SharePoint needs, contact McGladrey’s technology consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.

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