Turning Chapters Into Search Results

How Blend prepared the twenty-four chapters of The Web Project Guide for future search.

The Web Project Guide, a book that began life as a fully public document, has been printed and released. But that doesn’t mean Blend and the book’s authors are looking to hide the information — The Web Project Guide was designed as a public resource, and it will continue to live as such.

However, The Web Project Guide site needed some help. It was written in markdown using a handful of publishing services —it was, after all, designed to push to print, and it was not actually managed in any way.

Which made it a great candidate for migration into Umbraco.

In developing the site, Blend took the existing design and enhanced the content model in a way that allowed for more complex and periodic content. We added a news feed, and we even developed a template for a future podcast series. Pages could now include custom blocks, and the editorial process was improved tenfold — no more pushing code, the authors could now officially simply press “Publish.”

What’s really unique about the site, however, is how we’re handling future functionality — particularly with search.

Understanding that site visitors may want to find specific terms, we realized a major speed-bump in how search results might show up. There are 24 chapters … but they’re also very long. A search for, say, “content inventory” will bring you a clear result, but it also required you to skim the entire 5,000-page chapter to find your reference.

In this case, we moved beyond the idea of a “chapter” in the traditional sense. Instead of treating the site as 24 chapters, we now treat it as nearly 100 unique chapter sections. Each section has its own search title and metadata, and a search result may bring you multiple sections with the chosen topic.

This all happens without any change in layout to the front-end user. If we wouldn’t have said it in this feature study, you’d never even know that the chapter is actually an aggregation of different chapter sections.

Search is coming in a future release, but for now we’re just excited about how easy it was to implement within Umbraco, and how a little thought during discovery helped anticipate a problem that no one’s even encountered.