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"Avi Rappoport, SearchTools analyst" <[log in to unmask]>
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Avi Rappoport, SearchTools analyst
Tue, 18 Dec 2012 16:16:48 -0800
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On Dec 18, 2012, at 10:16 AM, Susan Farrell wrote:
> Note that Google accomplishes this search-within trick by simply adding term 2 to term 1 in the search box. If that would work for your search engine, you could teach users to do this by showing them the query string in the first box as it is altered to use the second term. They could widen their search by deleting any operator and the second (or third, etc.) term.

I agree, users have learned (from Hotbot to through Google) to just keep adding terms, so it's really important to not break this.  Let them type!

If you have any kind of structured data, showing facets is the most powerful way to help your users to make informed choices.  E-commerce has adopted this, rather than the form interfaces they used to have, because it just works.  

Now that I think of it, you could create facets dynamically, using the technical terms in your accumulator, perhaps with some kind of indicator about overlap or taxonomy hierarchy.  

For any kind of faceting though, you should use search engine software designed with the functionality rather than writing yourself or trying to force a database to do this work.  There are a lot of hidden complexities in search that bite inhouse developers, from how to index dashes to spellchecking to handling to search analytics.  Free open source search engines such as Lucene/Solr, Xapian, Elastic Search, and Sphinx let you concentrate on the functionality of your system rather than re-inventing the wheel.

Hope that helps

Avi Rappoport
Search Analyst
Search Tools Consulting 
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