The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Our new site search engine: Zoom

Photo: Search results

Photo: Search results

For Fiona’s blog 3rd birthday we invested in the Zoom site search engine. You can try it out in the right-hand sidebar.

One of the weakest features of the standard WordPress package is its inbuilt search facility. It is practically useless. We even had visitors email us to help find specific recipes! So we launched a project to find a better alternative and to customise the results page for Cottage Smallholder.

We tested five search engines including the free Google site search offering. But Google was ruled out because the licensing terms state that you are forbidden to modify the text of the results. You have to take what Google gives you, which is sometimes not exactly what you expect or want to see.

We loved the Zoom product from Wrensoft. It has some really good features that we hope to explore and develop for this site in future. Zoom is free to download. The free version will index up to 50 pages so you can try it out before investing. You need to modify the template that is supplied to suit your site. You can check out the raw output for Cottage Smallholder using the unmodified template here

We engaged a team of developers in Dhaka through eLance.com and defined what we wanted in the search results page:

  • thumbnails of the photograph
  • an excerpt from the post
  • a Hot Spot that enables you to preview the article without leaving the results page
  • contents of each Category in the sidebar should also display in a similar style

When searching, the results are ordered by relevancy so that the first four probably are the closest match of all the 1,050 articles here on this site.

It works well on our test site but the transplant to Cottage Smallholder had some hiccups and there is still work to be done. The Hot Spot is not behaving as it should, for example. But it is miles better than the old search facility so we will leave it in place and persevere until it is flying along like a well oiled smallholder.

Hopefully this is not too techie for a Sunday. We highly recommend Zoom for any WordPress or web site owner who knows the basics of HTML or who can call upon somebody who does.


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17 Comments

  1. markfromireland

    You’re welcome. I’m actually going to be putting it (back) onto my site sometime during the week. By all means feel free to email me if you think I might be able to help.

    Be aware though that I travel a fair bit and sometimes don’t have access to a connection for quite a while.

    If it’s urgent leaving a comment – (which won’t be published) asking me to get in touch, on (any) posting at Gorilla’s Guides will generally get a quick response either from me or one of my family.

    Firefox can be a bit fussy – mostly because of my security settings I suspect. For some reason if I’m in google documents in another tab firefox can get quite sniffy …..

  2. Hmmm. I use Firefox mostly and I gave not seen that CAPTCHA cookie error. I posted the previous comment as though I was a new visitor to the site and still did not get the error. No idea, unfortunately.

  3. Thanks for that valuable info, Mark. The eventual intention is to complete the project using Zoom but meanwhile any improvement is welcome. I had a look at both those products and testing them out is on my task list for this week.
    I searched high and low for a suitable free WP plugin search engine but I never came across either of those two. Next time I cannot find something I may just email you to pick your brains.

  4. markfromireland

    You’re very welcome Fiona – this incidentally is rapidly becoming one of my favourite blogs. Also I like the link within thingy even if it does mean that I spend more time than intended 🙂

    The suggestions are more so that Danny knows that he can get his hands on very good robust search. Even if you don’t use it here it’s the sort of info that Danny might find handy for other projects.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mark

    Thanks very much for your suggestions.

    I’ve passed on your comment to Danny as he is head honcho on the techie front.

  6. markfromireland

    Greetings from somewhat chilly Copenhagen:

    Perhaps this comment is too late to be of use to you.

    You might like to try Alex Günsche’s wordpress searches either as a stand-in until you get everything sorted out (or as an alternative if your current options don’t pan out).

    He has two:

    AdvancedSearch Lite

    and

    WordPress Advanced Search « Zirona

    I’ve used both and can recommend them. (I have also commissioned Alex on occasion.)

    While I think of it There’s also a worpdpress plugin for WordPress › Unit Converter « WordPress Plugins I haven’t used this one myself but plan on trying it out in a few weeks.

    Using Internet Explorer to send this comment as in Fireforx I get this message:

    ERROR: Could not read CAPTCHA cookie. Make sure you have cookies enabled and not blocking in your web browser settings. Or another plugin is conflicting. See plugin FAQ.

  7. One of the new enhancements to the site has been causing our server to crash frequently. Sadly we have had to disable the new Site Search and our Top 50 page until we have identified the culprit.
    So it’s back to the boring old standard search option 🙁

    Update Sat 09:45: Let’s try it out again!

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