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Monthly Archives: August 2009

SharePoint Search for Public Websites

Configuring search on a public facing Web Content Management (WCM) site is quite a different task compared with your typical SharePoint intranet. Searching over internal content largely works out of the box; setting up a few content sources and basic scopes is usually enough to satisfy most users.

With a public website we want a simpler more 'bing/google' like search experience. The method of search is a basic search keyword phrase input and the power of the search resides in the indexing of content. We do not want to rely on a user's ability to construct complicated search terms. Everybody can use it, and use it effectively.

What follows from here is a basic guide for setting up SharePoint search on an anonymously accessed SharePoint publishing site. This assumes a bit of experience configuring search, but if you don't take a look at this TechNet webcast on installing and configuring search in SharePoint Server 2007.

Creating Scopes

Creating scopes is the most important step in configuring public search. There are usually a number of resource files such as CSS, JavaScript, XSL and images as well as objects like user profiles that you wouldn't want showing up in your search results. However we do want to be able to search over all of our document libraries, inlcuding aspx pages. So our first step is to create a scope that will return all pages and documents which we can create like this:

publicscope

A search using this scope will return anything that is in the content source "Local Office SharePoint Server sites" AND (the content is a publishing page OR the content is a document). Note the brackets used in this statement.

As you can see the rule behaviour is being used to create logical conditions. The logic of the rules can be applied as follows:

  • Include = OR
  • Require = AND
  • Exclude = AND NOT

The 'contentclass' property specifies what type the indexed item is and will be automatically available for any content item in SharePoint. The two types that we are usually concerned with in a public site are:

  • STS_ListItem_850 (Publishing Pages)
  • STS_ListItem_DocumentLibrary (Documents)

Check out this post from Dan Attis for a complete list of contentclass values.

Tip

I would recommend against allowing list items in your search scopes. The basic reason for this is that to view a list item you need to browse to the display form (/Forms/DispForm.aspx). Problem is this should be locked down by the Form Lock down feature. Unfortunately it is common for lists to be used to store content for your public web site; for example when using WSS collaboration features such as blogs, wikis and discussion lists. At the end of the day the collaboration and publishing features in SharePoint don't play very nicely together. When making design decisions for a SharePoint based solution and the question comes up - "Should we put this content in a simple list or create aspx pages?", you should consider whether you want the content to be searchable or not.

Scope Examples

What if we wanted to create a scope that returned everything under a specific web? In this example I have added folder rule that will include all results in or beneath the 'about-us' site:

publicscope-web

What if we had a shared server environment that hosted multiple websites? In this example I have added a domain rule so that any results for my site will be returned:

publicscope-site

If you don't know how to create scopes than have look at this help page from microsoft office online.

Tip

When indexing document libraries make sure that the documents are of a file type known to SharePoint, otherwise SharePoint will crawl the document as a list item and use the form display page rather than the actual document itself. Check out the filter pack from Microsoft if you want to add additional file types.

Creating a Simple, Deployable Layout

Armed with our public search scopes we already have enough information to return the right results. The next step is to create a simple search page to display search results.

When you create a search centre using the out-of-the-box search site template, you get a whole bunch of features that just aren't that well suited to a public facing scenario (RSS Feeds, Alerts, Advanced Search). My recommendation is to take a light weight minimal approach - why use a whole search centre when a single results page will do it? Creating a single page layout that is part of an easily deployable SharePoint solution is often the cleanest way to go.

Web Parts

Web Part zones often cause issues when it comes to repeatable deployment and they add additional HTML bloat. If you are wanting the simplest HTML output possible then web part zones should be avoided.When it comes down to it we only really need a page layout with a few basic web parts - SearchBoxEx, CoreResultsWebPart and the SearchPagingWebPart.

Here is an example of using the CoreResultsWebPart in a search page layout without web part zone.

<Search:CoreResultsWebPart runat="server"
ID="SearchResults"
ShowActionLinks="True"
Scope="All Pages and Documents"
HighestResultPage="1000"
DuplicatesRemoved="True"
DisplayDiscoveredDefinition="True"
ShowSearchResults="True"
FrameType="None"
NoiseIgnored="True"
StemmingEnabled="True"
View="Relevance"
QueryNumber="Query1"
SentencesInSummary="3"
ResultsPerPage="10"
DateFormat="DateOnly"
DisplayAlertMeLink="False"
DisplayRSSLink="False"
RelevanceView="True"
WebPart="true">
<XslLink>/XSL/CoreSearchResults.xsl</XslLink>
<SelectColumns>
<root xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
<Columns>
<Column Name="WorkId"/>
<Column Name="Rank"/>
<Column Name="Title"/>
<Column Name="HitHighlightedProperties"/>
<Column Name="Size"/>
<Column Name="Path"/>
<Column Name="Description"/>
<Column Name="PictureThumbnailURL"/>
<Column Name="SiteName"/>
<Column Name="CollapsingStatus"/>
<Column Name="HitHighlightedSummary"/>
<Column Name="ContentClass"/>
<Column Name="IsDocument"/>
<Column Name="Write"/>
<Column Name="Author"/>
<Column Name="ContentType"/>
</Columns>
</root>
</SelectColumns>
</Search:CoreResultsWebPart>

The other web parts can be added to the page layout in the same way.

Tip

Make sure search.js is inlcuded in a custom search page layout as it is needed for logging search statistics:

<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderID="PlaceHolderAdditionalPageHead" runat="server">
<SharePoint:ScriptLink ID="ScriptLink1" name="search.js" runat="server"/>
</asp:Content>

Additional Branding Considerations

The majority of the branding is quite easy due to the core search results web part using an XSL transformation to style the results. Unfortunately the other web parts will require tedious battling with overriding of SharePoint's CSS properties. Not ideal but you can still get it looking pretty decent if you know what you are doing.

For full control of the HTML structure and styling you would need to create a bespoke solution that used the search SQL Syntax API that comes with MOSS. This is also the only solution if you require some advanced sorting or filtering functionality. This isn't overly difficult, but it's a tough one to explain to the business owner that is forking out for SharePoint.

So what about advanced search? I think we'll leave that one for another day.

I hope this post gives you a few ideas and some "best practices" on you can go about creating a decent search solution for you public SharePoint website.

Good luck!