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SharePoint Conference 2012 – Customizing the Search Experience

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Search is starting to seem to be a hot topic this year at the SharePoint Conference as this session was once again standing room only however it was in the developer track where an argument could be made that the majority of the content was focused around the configuration of certain areas of search and utilizing JavaScript as the new way to format search results.

Content Search web part

New in SharePoint 2013, the Content Search web part was built to help with the limitations of the Content Query web part which was only able to “roll up” content that was contained within the same site collection.  The Content Search web part has the ability to tap into the search index which automatically spans site collections and even web applications.  An interesting point is that this web part is NOT available in Office365, I’m guess they still need to work through some additional multi-tenant situations but you can look forward to using this new tool in your On Premise solutions.

The power of the content search web part comes with the wizard based approach to utilizing the query builder, refiner options and advanced configuration options in the web part which processes these changes in real time.  Another interesting note is that this web part can now also be context sensitive based on the user that is accessing the web part.  This context sensitive nature can inject keywords into a search query based off of profile property values and property bag values which makes this web part a must have for any composite solution where custom code is not needed.  This web part has a heavy dependency on query rules which also helps you build out your solution without requiring any user input to perform a search against the index.

Display Templates

The new way to display search results goes down the route like the Content Query web part with one huge exception, no more reliance on XSLT.  Display templates now utilize HTML and JavaScript markup in order to render search results.  These templates are a combination of an HTML file with specific markup and a JavaScript file that is automatically generated when the HTML file is updated.  These files traditionally live in the master page gallery where there are a set of folders organizing the different types of display templates.

When using display templates there are separate configuration layers to adjust markup: Control, Item, Filter, Group and Hover templates.  All of these different templates control separate areas or functionality through the search interface from item results to custom refiner display templates, now you can use the power of client side JavaScript to customize the search experience.

Search Center

In order to support the new customizations many of the search web parts have been rebuilt including: Search Box, Refinement Panel, Core Results and Search Navigation. 


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Brian Caauwe

Brian Caauwe

Brian is a SharePoint MCSM who has been working with the SharePoint platform since 2007. He works with and manages a team of consultants that are specialists in Office 365 and SharePoint helping to build business solutions for clients. Brian's background in system architecture, security, migrations and integration strategies help provide holistic solutions with Avtex.

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