Jan. 28, 2021

Tom Humbarger


4 min. read

In our latest Customer Case Study, see how the Institute of Physics (IOP) uses SearchStax Managed Solr on Drupal to ensure that its new website has the latest search functionality to meet the needs of its 20,000 member community.

Editor’s Note: Managed Solr is now SearchStax Cloud. It is the same great product that lets developers set up and deploy Solr infrastructure in minutes.

IOP’s Challenge

The Institute of Physics is a UK-based professional organization and learned society for the UK and Ireland that serves to inspire people to develop their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of physics. Founded in 1874, the IOP is a worldwide community of over 20,000 professionals and supports physics in education, research and industry through career advice, policy statements and professional development opportunities.

Improve Site Search Ranking and Relevance with Promotions and Rules

You can now take advantage of Promotions to push content to the top of the results page to curate customized search results. We have also added Rules as another option to improve how results are displayed in the search experience.

To see promoted items on the SearchStax website, type “sitecore” into the search bar. The first three items in the search results have been promoted and are identified with a star in the upper right corner. These are the content items we think are most important and relevant to your search.

Old Homepage for IOP.org

While IOP provides its community with many different types of resources to promote physics education and professional development initiatives, its old website was content-heavy and did not have a robust search function. To keep up with the volume of new content and to be able to expand features in the future, IOP initiated a project to upgrade its website to Drupal 8.

IOP “Searches” for New Search Options

The IOP has just delivered phase one of a new digital platform that aims to offer a high-quality, seamless user experience to a wide range of audiences – from the physics curious to those at the cutting-edge of the discipline.  This new platform has focused on using technology that can enable information to be drawn together to meet those different user needs.

The IOP therefore required a robust, comprehensive and extensive multi-site search facility to deliver large amounts of indexable pages from several disparate content sites. The previous website was hosted on AWS; IOP realized that Drupal native search would not be able to meet its advanced feature requirements. In response, the IOP team initiated a project to identify and implement a new performant search infrastructure that could grow with them.

The two key must-have requirements were faceted search and compliance with WCAG 2.0 accessibility requirements. Other should-have features include the ability of search to return all pages including those behind a login, weighting of some results so they return higher, “did you mean” search suggestions, indexing different types of content including PDFs, search synonyms and spell check.

Why Did IOP Select SearchStax Managed Solr for Drupal?

After looking at different search options including Drupal native search, IOP recognized that only Apache Solr and ElasticSearch would meet the advanced features with functionality that is available out-of-the box.

In the end, IOP selected Solr as the search facility because it is more mature in the Drupal space, is relatively easy to implement compared to ElasticSearch and has a large and active open source community. 

IOP decided it needed a dedicated Apache Solr core with the ability to host multiple indexes for its comprehensive search facility. IOP identified three options for implementation: Acquia search service, an in-house do-it-yourself solution or a Managed Solr solution from a SaaS company. 

“The IOP has ambitious plans for its digital experience. We produce a wide range of information and content across a number of different platforms and wanted a search solution that would ensure that our broad range of users would find easy to use and that would meet their needs effectively.  It is also absolutely crucial to us that the site meets high accessibility as well as performance standards.  We are delighted that SearchStax has been able to deliver that for us.” 

Liz North, Head of Communications and Marketing

The team ended up selecting SearchStax because of the ease of use and the speed of implementation – and they didn’t have to relinquish control or flexibility.

What Are the Results of Managed Solr on the IOP Drupal Website?

IOP implemented a performant and high availability dedicated Managed Solr cluster with a Gold support plan for its production environment and two single-node Solr environments for staging and development. This configuration gives IOP the Solr foundation to support its current and future needs.

Using SearchStax Managed Solr, IOP was able to deliver a Most Viable Product or MVP search facility from start to finish within two weeks and included themed search results, indexing of all selected content types, faceted search, synonyms and spell-check.

New IOP Website

The website features a new prominent search bar that expands when you click on the search icon on any page:

Example Search From IOP’s Website Showing Hit-Highlighting and Facets

The new search results include the content title, a brief description and tags to identify the source of the content and the search term is also highlighted in the search results.

By Tom Humbarger

Senior Product Marketing Manager

“…search should not only be for those organizations with massive search budgets.”

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