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 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.

  Leave a reply


  1. Brilliant – Thank you. Much better than the old one. As you can see I’m still catching up from my week or so offline, but I’m getting there. We’re going to Scotland for a weekon Friday so I hope to catch it all up before then! I’ll have to start all over again when I get back then but I don’t want to miss anything! lol

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sebbie

    I’m finding the new search engine is a joy too. I use the blog as my online cookbook!

    Hi Rose

    Thank you! Much appreciated.

    Hello Katyvic

    Yes, I love it as I used to waste so much time looking for articles.

  3. katyvic

    Fantastic. *Such* an improvement – and the little pictures really help to zip straight into the right article.

    I’m using it all the time now (used to curse your old search machine).

  4. I have posted a little bloggy love for you! XXX

  5. I discovered we had damsons at the allotment yesterday (hurray) and looked at my recipe books with little joy. Then I remembered your new search engine … fantastic. Not only recipes but also a post where I could check they really are damsons (I’ve never seen them before so was guessing 🙂 ).

    Thank you


  6. Thank you, seahorse (that is name of our local fish and chip shop here in Newmarket – uncanny). We love Oded. Fiona referred to his book several times today.

    Hi Rachel – thanks for the tip. Must install the Windows version of Safari and test it. In any case, Fiona made some more of one of our favourite Apple & Chilli Jelly this evening. We do love it but she did not get much juice from the apples today.

  7. ooh just came on to search for chilli apple jelly but it seems to not like safari – please don’t abandon us mac

  8. seahorse

    Well, I thought I’d tax it with ‘Oded’ and it brought up every post involving the man himself! Brilliant. Oh, and I have you to thank for my preserving bible. Got it via Oz like you.

  9. Wendy,
    Thanks for taking the time to let us know that it actally, really (incredibly!) worked for you.
    [warm glow in techie bosom 🙂 ]

    Re that book – I got to page 30 approx. It did not grip me the way it did Fiona. Then again, I have not had time to continue reading it, or any other book for that matter, in weeks and weeks.
    Would be interested in your thoughts when you have read it.

  10. Hi Danny, I have just used the search engine to find the post Fiona did of ‘The interpretation of Murder’. It took me immediately to 25th June. I have just started this book having managed to get it from a charity shop for 99p. I just wanted to re-read Fions’s thoughts on it. x

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