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    3. Search

    NOTE: if there is no search on the intranet, enter a score of ‘0’ against all heuristics.

    SCORING AT A GLANCE: 0 = extremely poor, not implemented • 1 = very poor • 2 = poor • 3 = good • 4 = very good • 5 = excellent, exceeds criteria



    Your notes

    Your score


    Search is consistently available from all intranet pages

    Staff typically use search when they are unable to use the site’s navigation to easily find required content. Search may be used from any location on the intranet, and search should therefore be available on all pages.

    Search should be located consistently on intranet pages so staff can easily identify and locate it when needed.

    0: Site search is not available throughout the site.

    5: Site search is available on every page of the site and it is consistently positioned.


    The default is a simple search

    Staff rarely require a complex or ‘advanced’ search. Search should default to a simple search (a single search box with a ‘search’ or ‘find’ button).

    0: The site does not have a simple search, or the default is a complex or ‘advanced’ search.

    5: A simple search is available on every page of the site and the text box is long enough to encourage users to enter more than one search word. All other options have been removed, or placed on an ‘advanced’ search page.


    There is one search that covers the entire intranet

    Staff expect that search will cover the entire intranet. The default search should not be set to search only within a single section of the site, nor should there be multiple competing search engines that search particular areas, or overlap in their coverage.

    The only exception to this is where there is a distinct information repository, such as a phone directory, which should have its own search tool. In this situation, this restricted search should be clearly marked, so as to be clearly distinct from the intranet-wide search.

    The intranet search should also cover all relevant documents that are linked to from the intranet, including the full text of the files.

    0: There is no single search that covers the entire site, or the default is to search only some sections of the site. Alternatively, there may be multiple search engines that cover different areas of the site, or compete in their coverage.

    5: There is a single search across the entire site, including documents (where relevant). This search also seamlessly searches other technology platforms, where these would be considered by staff to be part of the ‘intranet’.


    Search handles common misspellings and uses synonyms

    Staff will make typing and spelling mistakes. The search should be case insensitive and search on common misspellings.

    A ‘synonyms list’ should also be established to ensure that equivalent terms are handled in the same way. For example, searching on ‘bike’ and ‘bicycle’ should return the same results.

    0: Searches are case sensitive and common typing or spelling mistakes return no results.

    5: The search handles common typing and spelling mistakes, is not case sensitive and handles synonyms.


    Search results are useful and relevant

    A fundamental criteria for search is that useful and relevant results are found for common searches. Pages and documents returned should be obviously related to the search being conducted.

    This can be assessed by conducting searches on typical terms (such as ‘leave form’) and evaluating the relevance and usefulness of the pages that are returned.

    0: Search returns irrelevant or useless results that have no obvious association with the terms entered.

    5: Highly relevant and useful pages are found for all common searches, and there is a clear relation between the pages returned and the search terms. In almost all cases, desired information can be quickly found using the search.


    Search results are prioritised with the most important being shown first

    The most relevant or most useful information is presented in the top few results of the search. This can be assessed by entering popular searches and inspecting the results against the known content of the intranet.

    Metadata and tuning of the search engine ‘weightings’ and other configuration options can be used to improve the quality and relevance of search results.

    Beyond this, search engine ‘best bets’ can be implemented to guarantee that key information is presented first for common searches. This is a very effective way of ensuring the relevance of results, even as the intranet grows in size.

    0: Irrelevant or less-useful results are presented at the top of the search results page. There is no clear ordering according to relevance, or results are ranked according to some other less-useful criteria (such as alphabetical order of titles).

    5: Search results are highly relevant and useful pages are presented within the first few results. Search engine ‘best bets’ have been implemented to ensure that key information is presented first for common searches.


    Appropriate information is shown for each search result

    Staff should be presented with enough information to evaluate each search result, but not so much information that the page is cluttered. The key principle is to ensure that search results can be quickly scanned by staff, while presenting key details that allow the desired page to be easily identified.

    Each search result should include the following:

    • Title of the page/document, displayed as a link

    • Meaningful description (precis)

    • Relevance as a star rating (1 to 5 stars)

    • Type of the file (ideally displayed as an icon)

    • Section of the site the file is located in

    Irrelevant information should be avoided as it can distract the user and make it harder to identify the best result. The following should be avoided:

    • Relevance as a percentage

    • URL

    • Size of the file

    • ‘Find similar documents' or equivalent

    0: Search results are cluttered and confusing, and contain irrelevant information. It is hard to quickly scan the results page, and difficult to identify the desired page or document.

    5: Search results contain just the key information staff require to quickly identify the required page or document. The results are cleanly presented, and are easy to visually scan.


    The overall search results page is well designed, and contains appropriate elements and functionality

    The search results page should be cleanly designed and attractive, without being cluttered with irrelevant information or functionality. Complex functionality should be avoided on the standard search results page, and instead moved to a separate ‘advanced’ search.

    The search results page should include the following:

    • Listing of the search terms used

    • Number of matching documents

    • Mechanism for browsing through the search results pages

    • Field for entering a new search

    • Numbered list of search ‘hits’

    The following should be avoided:

    • Time to run search query

    • ‘Search within results’ option

    • Other advanced search options

    • ‘Hide summaries’ or other options to control how the results are displayed

    • Option to change the number of results displayed on each page

    0: Search results page is cluttered and poorly designed. Irrelevant or complex information or functionality is included on the page.

    5: The search results page is well designed and attractive. Key (and commonly-used) functionality is provided on the page, while irrelevant items have been removed to avoid clutter or unnecessary complexity.


    Tailored search tools are provided for specialist users

    While the standard ‘simple search meets the needs of general intranet users, more powerful search options may need to be provided for any groups of specialist users.

    Tailored search solutions should be developed for each group of specialist users, offering customised search and results pages, as well as additional functionality where required.

    Examples of specialist search users includes: lawyers needing to find past Court rulings, engineers working with a large collection of maintenance manuals, technical support staff needing to quickly resolve customer issues.

    0: There is a single search interface provided for all staff, with no tailored solutions delivered for specialist search users.

    5: Specialist search solutions have been developed to meet the unique needs of individual groups of users.



    Search (percentage score)


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