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Search is more than just search with SiteSeeker in EPiServer CMS 5

A lot of web sites do not benefit from their users’ involvement when they search. A common example of this is when web sites employ global search engines to search within their own content. This is like handing away business opportunities, attention, clicks, or whatever is important to you and your website, because search is so much more than just providing a search box to the user. These are the thoughts that guided us at Euroling in the development of the new SiteSeeker module for EPiServer CMS 5.

We developed our first SiteSeeker module for EPiServer version 4.40. The feedback we have received over the years from both developers and editors was our starting point in the development of the new module for EPiServer 5. We also know that developers spend most of their time with the SiteSeeker module developing the search page. So the main technical goal with the development of the module has been to offer good conditions for that work.

Already with the SiteSeeker module for EPiServer 4.61, we wanted to encapsulate EPiServer specific code. The advantage is that the module is less sensitive to changes in the EPiServer API. This approach meant that we could reuse the code for EPiServer 5. Developers that have been working with the new module for EPiServer 4.61 will feel at home when they are working in an EPiServer 5 project.

We wanted the SiteSeeker module for EPiServer 5 to be flexible, so that it would be possible to get the most out of all kinds of search implementations. The search page in the new module is created according to the Model-View-Controller pattern, and we have put a lot of effort into creating a clearer structure. The SiteSeeker web service (the model) is encapsulated and most of the adaptations can be made without changing anything in the Web Service calls. This has made the code behind-files more clear as well. More changes than before can be made without the need to recompile the DLL file, which makes module maintenance easier and allows access to new functionality.

Most importantly, the SiteSeeker module has become more useful in projects where you want to create a highly customized search page. The SiteSeeker search page in EPiServer is created by different components for the page, such as the hit list and the overview. If, for instance, you want a segmented search page with several hit lists, it has been made easier, both to create the new hit list, and to have it search in the right part of the index. The new module is also better documented, and it is delivered with an SDK.

With the new SiteSeeker module, the state of the search page is described by the URL to the page. At a glance, it might seem like a small change, but for the user it means they can, for example, send links to different search results by e-mail, and that the back button of the web browser works as it should. The search page also works without JavaScript.

There have also been changes to the admin and edit mode. A simple, but often requested function, is the possibility to test the connection to the SiteSeeker web service. Also, as in earlier versions of the SiteSeeker module for EPiServer, you will access the search reports and analyses directly from the EPiServer administration tool. Information about common queries as well as queries that do not yield any hits helps you develop your website according to your users’ behaviors. In the trend analyses, you see how search habits change over time.

With the SiteSeeker module for EPiServer 5 it is easy for both developers and editors to work with search as a dynamic part of the entire website. It enables you to explore the full potential of the search function.

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