Monday, January 3, 2011

Thoughts on SharePoint 2010 Search Refinement

I've been spending a lot of time lately working with SharePoint 2010's "Refinement Panel" web part.

This capability was available only as a third-party add-in or Codeplex solution back in the MOSS days, but I was very excited to learn that it had been incorporated natively in 2010.

It's frustrating, however, to have to constantly explain to customers that Refinement goes only 500 results deep unless you have FAST, which requires Enterprise CALs. The standard search provides a Refinement Panel that defaults to an Accuracy Index of 50 and goes to a maximum of 500. This means that the Refinement capability will only work for the first 50-500 results returned.

So if a company is stuck with Standard CALs and no FAST, how do they get around this limitation? Surely a mid to large size company will have many more than 500 list items, documents and other artifacts returned in a global search of all content sources, including SharePoint sites, File Shares, etc.

So in our hypothetical mid to large size company scenario where a search for "widget" returns 5,000 results, how do we mitigate the problem I've outlined with the Refinement Panel? Well, there are a couple of ways:

  • Create focused search scopes
  • Remove the Refinement Panel web part for global searches

Fortunately, data from systems connected via Business Connectivity Services can't be used until you reach the Enterprise CAL level, either, so definitely use FAST for that and many other search improvements.

To conclude, don't fret if you're stuck with just the Standard CAL search experience. There are a few things you can do to make it a little better, especially with the Refinement Panel:

  • if you do use the Refinement Panel, limit results by creating scopes
  • Change the default Accuracy Index from 50 to 500 (the maximum in Standard)
  • Enable Counts for your Refinement Panel
  • ...but be sure to uncheck the "Use Default Configuration" box in the toolpart. :)