Have you ever used the search bar on the upper right of a page and were immediately frustrated with the results? Or did you not even try because you don't trust it? Site search is hard, because the technology learning curve is steep, data might not be perfect and no-one is there to care for the integration.
However, most sites have a search & discovery use-case at the core of the user experience. Instead of adding search later to the party, we have created our platform with search at the core as to always be able to integrate context-driven elements to all pages.
When our client asked the customers what the biggest problem was for them, the most negative nominations went to the search. Being slow and in-accurate, no-one was very surprised, yet for a large marketplace (800 suppliers who together stock around 50 million products for the supplies market) the search was the most important feature of the whole product.
Customers want a search experience like Google
After an inital attempt at quick fixes the decision was made to not only start a technology relaunch, but also to re-design and completely re-launch the search. Lots of problems with the aging infrastructure and difficult datamodels were solved and a soft-launch was started.
The migration required the implementation of a complex role-based access control system that allowed individual customers to see and order only the suppliers they were provisioned to see. Our extension points for integrating custom rights management solutions allowed us to create a highly scalable search setup that now allows searches with an SLA of < 2 seconds for most accounts despite the large data size.