Anatomy of the Search Results Page in SharePoint 2013

One of the things I have always appreciated about the SharePoint search interface is the ability to configure it to specifically meet your needs for a particular type of content area.  This has only improved in SharePoint 2013 as the interfaces for selecting and prioritizing refiners has evolved significantly over the years to provide a better search experience after the user has submitted their query (reactive search).

The search results page is comprised of a variety of web parts that complete the user experience related to search. You can reorder, remove or add web parts to further enhance the experience. The key is recognizing that to customize your unique experience, all you need is to Edit the Search Results Page.

Some of the common web parts on a Search Results page include:

Search Box – The location a user will enter their search query. You can configure this web part to do things such as:

  • Redirect to a specific search results page which will thereby reset the search query and start a new one.
  • Filter the web parts on the page.  By filtering the web parts on the page, you will be further refining the search results. It’s important to understand the difference between this and the above option as they will provide a very different search experience.
  • Display the search navigation drop down which appears on your site collections if you have the Search Center settings enabled.

Search Navigation – A web part that provides a tabbed interface to allow a user to refine search results based on some predefined parameters such as result sources (scopes) or content sources.  This web part reads from the Search Settings (Under Site Administration) page of your site collection where you can configure Titles and Pages URLs for the predefined results pages you wish to have appear in your Search Center navigation.  These pages typically will contain web parts that have been filtered to only display a subset of data based on predefined properties.

Search Results

As you can imagine, this web part displays…wait for it…wait for it…search results.  I know, I know, I didn’t see that coming either.  But the fact is this web part is where the results of the search query will be displayed.  You can configure this web part by choosing how many results are to be displayed, how items are displayed and whether they leverage display templates related to the type of result or whether they use the same template for all results.  This web part also allows for preferences such as whether the search results will list duplicate items independently or group together.

Refinement

Finally one of the most powerful web parts for providing an enhanced search experience is the Search Refinement web part. This web part drives which facets users can select to further refine their search results so that a more specific subset can be listed.  Things you can do by modifying this web part include choosing which properties appear as refiners within in the page, what order they appear in and whether they are single select refiners or multiple select. Depending on the content that is being returned, there may be advantages to fine tuning this web part so that very specific metadata values are displayed. For example in a Contract Management Search Center, you might be interested in displaying custom metadata such as Contract Type, Customer or Department beyond some of the more common default options such as Result Types and Author.

So what does this all mean?

Well the key point here is that out of the box, SharePoint will provide you with a Search Center site template and Search Results page that is already configured to provide a very effective and intuitive search experience. But depending on your business requirements, you may want to extend this further. Many organizations are unaware of the options that they have to fine tune this experience to suit their needs.