Improving Search in Kentico 11 with Azure Search

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Everyone’s been to a site with truly awful search. You have an idea of what you are looking for, but no clue as to where to start. You click on the Search link and are taken to a box, with little else. Sure, you can get some results there, but we’ve all seen a list with “Page 1 of 1,580” at the bottom. Not very helpful, is it? Before you go throwing your monitor across the room, I’m happy to tell you that Kentico 11 is going to support Faceted Search! Long gone are the days of your users sifting through the abyss in search of their content. With Version 11’s Azure Search integration, you’ll be able to build an intuitive (and USABLE) search experience, no matter the content.

Every good developer knows that Search is a tough thing to do. Well, do it RIGHT, that is. Every application has unique requirements and characteristics that make a one-size-fits-all search module impossible to produce. Luckily, there are some great 3rd party tools like Azure Search to help.

Why Azure Search?

Azure Search

Being a cloud-hosted SaaS (Software as a Service), Azure Search is a flexible and scalable solution for indexing and retrieving content within a site. Backed by powerful machine learning and AI, Azure Search is fully customizable for any scenario. Like many cloud-hosted services, it has a pay-as-you-go cost structure, to help you forecast and manage your costs over time.

Here are just some of the highlights the service offers:

  • Scalable infrastructure
  • Faceting
  • Custom scoring profiles
  • Synonym mapping
  • Language analyzers
  • Multi-platform capabilities
  • Multi-language support

With so many features available, adding support for Microsoft’s Search as a Service was a clear choice for Kentico 11. By integrating these two systems, we can offer you the ability to fully customize your search experience, while maintaining the consistent look and feel of Kentico your users have grown to love.

You can learn more about Azure Search here.

Faceting

One of the most powerful features of Azure Search is faceting. By breaking results into categories, users can quickly filter the information to find exactly what they are looking for. Multiple facets can be applied, which is very helpful when dealing with content that is classified in several ways. This means less time searching and more time viewing the information your users came to see.

Here is an example of faceted search in action.

As you can see, the facets allow the products to be categorized and filtered quickly. Azure Search provides the total number of records for each facet, letting your users know which option have results. You can apply many facets at once to fine tune the query to your exact requirements.

How it all fits together

Now that you know what Azure Search brings to table, you may be wondering how it works with Kentico. For years, Kentico has had a powerful, Lucene.NET-powered search solution, named Smart Search. This feature allowed for the indexing and searching of content very quickly, and was the preferred solution for data-heavy applications.

With Azure Search, the data resides in the cloud, so functionality had to be created to integrate these two systems. We didn’t want to remove the Smart Search experience, so we updated Version 11 to integrate seamlessly into Azure Search on an API level. Once the initial index is created, all content changes are asynchronously processed up to Azure Search, ensuring your indexes are always up to date. We even built-in error handling and recovery, in case communication with Azure Search gets interrupted. We tried to cover any scenario you may encounter when it comes to your search data and it’s all baked into the platform.

Azure Search is extremely configurable, so you will be able to use our APIs to build your web parts and controls to work with your data. This means you can create Custom Scoring Profiles, analyzers, and leverage machine-learning within your search experience. The updated documentation will contain some examples to help get you going!

Moving forward

With Kentico 11’s Azure Search integration, you will be able to build dynamic, intuitive search experiences for your users. You will be able to customize results, identify behaviors, and fine-tune your application to provide the most relevant information to your audience. And in the end, that’s why people are coming to your site! We hope you love this new capability and all the other great features coming in Kentico 11!

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Bryan Soltis

Hello. I am a Technical Evangelist here at Kentico and will be helping the technical community by providing guidance and best practices for all areas of the product. I might also do some karaoke. We'll see how the night goes...