A New Search Experience

The Need

Back in January 2017, we learned from in-person focus groups that campus was frustrated with the UND.edu search experience. We also learned our current search appliance (Google Site Search) will be discontinued, making it necessary to find a new on-site search solution.

The Goal

The ultimate search will understand everything in the world and always serve up exactly what you’re looking for. We’re a long way from that but we will get closer. Our goal is to provide an on-site search service that will return the results you need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

3 Big Changes

Part of fulfilling that goal is making changes to way we find information on our site. Here are three big changes you’ll notice on the new site:

  1. The A-Z Index as a static alpha listing is going away. Instead, the new on-site search solution will be married to the A-Z Index, providing one place to find information.
  2. The Directory as a separate search for faculty, staff and students will too be married to search. Take a look at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln search and you’ll see a search that combines a people search with a site-wide search. Ours will work in a similar fashion.
  3. MyUND is also going away. Instead, our internal audiences (faculty/staff and current students) will use an ‘Info For’ section that includes links to pages they visit most. Additionally, a separate ‘Logins’ section will be featured at the top of every page, giving us direct access to email, Blackboard and Campus Connection.

Better Content = Better Search

No matter what we do to make search better, bad content will still ruin search results. If you don’t want your 2010 meeting minutes found, don’t put them on your website!

Here are some basic tips to bear in mind:

  • Page titles help search engines and your readers understand your content. Keep them short and unique to each page. Here’s a hypothetical example: “What can I do after a B.A. in English?” is long and the words “what can I do” aren’t helping search. A better option is “Career Options for English Grads.” All the words here are valuable for search.
  • Meta description (called the page description in OmniUpdate) is the text that shows up right after the title in search results. This makes it the second most important part after your page title. Don’t leave your page description blank! There are tons of tips online about how to write a strong meta description, but start simple by at least writing one for every single page on your site.
  • Headings give search engines an idea of what is on your page. Make sure your headings are formatted as real headings (H2, H3, H4 etc.) and not just bolded text. Also, avoid using non-descriptive words like “Welcome” in your headings because that does very little in telling users what they can find on your site.
  • Keywords in your page content can be very useful provided they fit the context of the page. Organically mix in your keywords in the body of the text and page headings.

Next Steps

We released a RFP to procure a replacement search appliance. Nathan Clough (University Information Technologies), Saurabh Chimote (Energy & Environmental Research Center) and Tera Buckley (Office of Marketing & Creative Services) will select the new search appliance.

After completing the procurement process, an implementation phase will start to get the new search appliance up-and-running to go live with Wave 1 in April 2018.

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