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Implementing federated search in a multi-site environment

Implementing federated search in a multi-site environment

September 20, 2018

Creating a complex federated search service in a multi-site environment is not a simple project. Nevertheless, businesses that have successfully implemented it have reaped the anticipated benefits, observes Scott Solomon, Content Marketing Manager at eZ Systems.

In its basic avatar, federated search is about scanning several sites at the same time and aggregating the results obtained from multiple sources or a federation of websites. However, like everything concerning multi-site environments, it is a complex process. For instance, let us look at JSH-Online’s success. JSH-Online leveraged federated search to develop a full-text searchable archive of all the published content from 1883 to today in print and from 2000 to today in audio format.

JSH-Online is the combined home of three separate print periodicals—The Christian Science Journal, Christian Science Sentinel, and The Herald of Christian Science. Therefore, one site may be text heavy, consisting of mostly article content and another could be focused on e-commerce with short product blurbs. The third site’s content repository could be filled with audio podcast content with extremely limited text to search on. Beyond the variety of media, the challenge would be to serve audiences who could be more interested in searching all these types of content across multiple sites.

In the beginning, the team made certain assumptions about user behavior. By trial and error, they were able to turn these assumptions into an actual understanding of user behavior. However, some of the assumptions like the one they took on turning on word stemming, proved incorrect. Hence, the team made adjustments based on the feedback they got from the users. In the instance of turning on word stemming, they turned it off and found that searches were more fruitful.

The JSH-Online story is about testing and experimentation to get things right. It was the team’s ability to experiment and quickly adapt that made implementing federated search a success. The challenges they faced provided insights into what their users wanted, leading them to create a better-federated search experience.

Click here to continue reading more about JSH-Online’s approach to content discovery and absorb some of the best practices for creating a better-federated search experience.

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