Frustrated with Search in Discourse


(Bcguy) #1

I find the current search tool very inadequate for actually finding things. I would really like a more google-esqe experience. I know I’ve posted something in the forums I’ve used (we currently have about 22,000 postings - since we started two months ago) but I find it virtually useless for finding old posts.

The small amount of information currently provided in the dropdown is not enough to know whether any of the given posts is what I’m looking for (I really need more information to provide more context - like Google does in their results pages).

I’m currently running on 9.7.5 - so I qualify my comment with the understanding that search now may be very different - but if it isn’t, I’d really like to see something new and improved and different.


Search provides no way to show all results
(Jeff Atwood) #2

Can you provide some specific examples of searches you’ve performed?

Also is that 22,000 topics or posts?


Search provides no way to show all results
(Dave McClure) #3

see also:


(cpradio) #4

Easy, perform a search using “search” here on meta and you’ll see this thread doesn’t show up!

Keep in mind, we are all fairly technical and have learned how to eventually get to the topic we want by altering our search criteria until it finds what we were looking for. But I issue the following challenge … are we doing it wrong?

Why are we wasting so much time altering our search parameters to find what we lost or didn’t know? Why isn’t search better at indicating what we may be looking for?

The search in Discourse isn’t great. But let me be more specific on that statement. The search results seem to be on topic and worthy, how they are displayed is too limiting. I have a small viewport that I must use to look through my results.

By having a dedicated page of results, you open yourself to doing so much more to give me a better idea on whether I found what I was looking for. You can give an excerpt of the first post in the topic (or the post found in the search result) so I can get a quick glance of “is this what I want?” Number of Likes on it may influence my decision to read that post over another as well (this one seems to more consistently be liked than this one, maybe the level of completeness/detail is better here. And so on).

The fact is, the average person sucks at searching. Having a limited viewport just makes it a much harder experience (I’m actually shocked this doesn’t come up more often, but then again, I’ve also found a lot of people just don’t search before posting… and I always wondered if that was because of the complexity of search found in vBulletin and other Forums using the advanced search or if they are just lazy…).


Search provides no way to show all results
(Bcguy) #5

I think this is an important issue. We have all grown up with search results that look like google or yahoo, etc. results - a page of results with some information on each result. The small view window that pops up when I use Discourse search was actually unrecognizable as “search” when I first used it. I didn’t understand what was going on and why search wasn’t working. It seemed like it was like a google autofil - where you then choose the search terms and then more refined search results show up - but thats not how Discourse search works. This is, I believe, another good example (of many) where it shows the need for better UX/UI design input and testing. I dont think the search really works at all for most users (it would be interesting to see data on frequency of re-use of search after someone has initially used it - I think most people use it once then give up like I have).

My suggestion is to make it really easy for Discourse forum managers to replace the rudimentary discourse search with the Google site search - that is what I’d like to see done and would meet my needs. I don’t mind paying a bit for world class search capabilities.


(Dave McClure) #6

That might be fine, but the built-in search should be improved as well. It’s been one of the stated goals of discourse, and has factored into design decisions (like using PostgreSQL for its full-text searching capabilities).

Earlier responses to the other thread I linked to above show mixed opinions about whether its more important to focus first on the search UI first vs the search algorithm/quality:

And my response:

Those of us that think the UI is the more important area to explore first should consider making mockups to help drive that discussion in a more productive manner…


(Jeff Atwood) #7

You can search with google, simply enter:

site:forum.example.com seach terms

Or, try the 404 page which has a handy search dialog:

http://meta.discourse.org/foo

Then enter your Google search terms there at the bottom of the 404 page:


(cpradio) #8

Do you really expect users to be doing that? The whole point is to keep them on your site, not tell them to go elsewhere to find something on their site… That sounds like a horrible plan.

Also, it is sort of sad that a 404 page would have a better search process than the main site… What does that tell our users? Sorry, but unless you find an invalid page, good luck getting to valuable content.


(Jeff Atwood) #9

I was answering the question, which is

how do I use an alternative search for my Discourse forum?

That’s how. Bonus: works for every website on the Internet in the same way!

I think users should know how to search the web. It is a valuable life skill for every human being on the planet. I can’t see how any rational person could disagree with that.


(Sam Saffron) #10

I would really like to experiment with the idea of having “search” work slightly different if you are on “latest”.

When on latest tab have search results show up where latest topics are, using the same ui and the area we use for pinned topic information as the excerpt.

I agree space is way too tight in the search things if we had more space and more results it would be way easier to find stuff.


(cpradio) #11

Sorry, it wasn’t linked to that, so kind of hard for me to infer that :wink:

Although everyone should learn to search, it doesn’t mean they will become good at it, or that my initial points are invalid. I still don’t see why we are forced into a narrow viewport that only complicates finding the topic I want, or being asked to use Google or any other search engine. The last thing I want to do is send users away so they can find their way back! That’s ludicrous.

I also believe that if I have to alter my search parameters a few times to find what I’m looking for, and my initial parameters should have returned the thread in question (such as my example above), then the search is slightly broken. Either because it can’t show the number of results it needs to, so I can see the topic I was looking for, or because its algorithm didn’t return it (which one it is, I’m not sure – but your logs should be able to indicate that I’d assume).


(Dave McClure) #12

@sam That sounds like what I have in my head. I feel like it’d work really well.

In addition to being able to use more space, all those goodies for context would really help (posts, users, views, likes, plus the excerpt as you suggest)

Probably just need to add some other UI element to have the search filter stick around while you scroll the list, and to clear it when you don’t want it anymore. Perhaps it could be done with the current pop-up if it were dismissed with an X button instead of when you click outside of it, but I’m not sure that’s what you want in the long run…


(Dave McClure) #13

worth taking a look at the new GUI for search in trello which sucks a lot less now.

some cool ideas to consider:

  • snippets in their in-page search

  • show more expands to show more on the in-page search

  • separate ‘Open in a Page’ link to open in a new page

  • search in a page is also dynamic as you type

  • google-like search operators (has: attachment, description: blah, etc)


(TechnoBear) #14

[quote=“cpradio, post:4, topic:13064, full:true”]
The search in Discourse isn’t great. But let me be more specific on that statement. The search results seem to be on topic and worthy, how they are displayed is too limiting. I have a small viewport that I must use to look through my results.

By having a dedicated page of results, you open yourself to doing so much more to give me a better idea on whether I found what I was looking for.
[/quote]Very late to the party, I know, but I’d just like to point out that if you’re a keyboarder, then your options are severely curtailed because, while it’s easy to open and use the search dialogue by keyboard, it’s impossible to activate the “show more” link. So if the thread you’re looking for isn’t in the top five results - tough.


(Sam Saffron) #15

I made this improvement today:

I will do a few more rounds on it, but I find it improved.


Double-Stuf improved search feedback
(Jeff Atwood) #16