Based in the heart of London, University College London (UCL), established in 1826, enjoys a reputation of being consistently ranked in the world's top 10 universities, producing 29 Nobel Prize winners and servicing a 36,000 strong student community from over 150 countries.
UCL’s prior search implementation suffered from a poor user experience, with stakeholders and users alike regarding the solution as unfit for purpose. An inconsistently deployed, undervalued, underused and underresourced search platform resulted in a neglected, cookie-cutter search experience, driving users away from the site.
With a large collection of websites (nearly 1M URLs), a heterogeneous publishing environment, and only 25% of content being visited more than 5 times a year, UCL chose to partner with Funnelback to perform several wide-ranging enhancements to their websites’ search experience.
The issues spanned content authored by more than 110 departments, institutes and research centers published across 820 websites. Additionally, high-value content published by UCL on social media services like iTunes University, SoundCloud and YouTube were not yet included in search results on the site.
Move away from generic search
Implement easier to use templates
Improved search with enhanced features
Analytics interface with sharable reports
The primary goals of this project were to bring order to the content chaos and to improve the search user experience.
UCL employed the services of several vendor-agnostic, third-party consultants to produce a series of recommendations based on an analysis of existing site search usage, content audits, and traditional user experience research methods, focused on examining search-specific personas and scenarios.
The flexibility of Funnelback’s gathering, indexing, ranking and templating offerings ensured that all of the proposed enhancements were able to be performed through product-level configuration — aligning the deployed solution with the research and analysis phases.
UCL’s technical team also benefited from taking a hands-on approach to managing the search solution, creating, configuring and combining additional collections in their self-hosted Funnelback environments.
Recognising the high-touch nature of search was key to our team focusing on defining what a successful search solution looked like for UCL.
As different users start their search journeys from different points on the site, all with varied goals and expectations in mind, a single Funnelback search platform was needed to deliver global and specialised vertical searches for courses, staff and multimedia.
Recognising that a flexible, open, broadly-applicable metadata schema was required for all future published content; UCL’s Information Architects leveraged Funnelback’s support for multiple schemas including, Facebook’s OpenGraph Protocol, Twitter Cards and UCL’s own metadata schema.
Extending the investment made by the team at UCL in responsive global templates, Funnelback’s technical team also worked to ensure that all search scopes were both mobile and desktop friendly for global and vertical searches.
On top of this, advanced search features aimed to aid user navigation were implemented such as faceted navigation, the Concierge, and the inclusion of social media content in results:
High-value content types receive custom treatments as early as possible in the search journey — an extended, enriched query completion provided easily-accessible summaries of UCL’s underlying repositories with only a handful of keystrokes.
Social media collections
Funnelback’s native support for YouTube collections made including rich video content a straightforward exercise. The new “Custom Collections” product feature was used to easily bring in content from iTunes University and SoundCloud for a rich set of blended search results.
Rather than reducing the scope of indexed content, Funnelback's faceted navigation support allowed all internal and external content to be included and discoverable via intuitive refinement tools, tailored to each search context.
We’re now gathering more than twice the amount of content we’d gathered previously, but we’re using Funnelback to tailor the search experience for our most valuable users’ information discovery tasks, with minimal changes to our existing content publishing platforms.
A search-driven content audit has assisted in restoring order to UCL’s cotent chaos. A well defined search strategy and research-driven improvements to the search user experience has produced a search solution better suited to UCL’s users and their requirement, exposing the valuable content created by this well-respected institution.
UCL content authors can now safely publish material in structures and locations that are tailored to fit, confident that Funnelback will be capable of gathering, ranking and displaying it at the right time, to the right users, in the right way, wherever it may live.
The Funnelback search platform was subjected to gruelling load and penetration testing prior to deployment, performing better than anyone expected.
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