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Why Context Matters in Effective Website Search

The goal of search is not to just provide a bunch of things the user could be looking for, but the right thing.

VitalSite 15 prioritizes provider search results based on match to the page’s taxonomy term. In other words, results now take the context of the search into account first.

Picture it: you’re on a website. You’re looking for a specific piece of information and you’re in a hurry. After looking at the navigation, you find it isn’t clear where the information is. What are you supposed to do? You look around and there, you see it, the solution to all your problems: the search box, of course! You type in your request and press the submit button.

Behind the scenes an entire world of logic, computer processing power, and data spins to life to read your mind and deliver exactly the piece of information you’re looking for. If you misspell a word, it guesses the correct word. If the target of your search is a difficult or unusually spelled word, it uses a phoneme dictionary to identify similar sounding words or names. Search is one of the most complex and data intensive parts of any website. The denser the data, the harder the challenge to identify what the user means — not just what they say — and provide results that satisfy that need.

Using context to enhance VitalSite’s search

Providing the right search results requires more than just a lot of processing power. The logic underlying the search process must strive to understand the context of the user experience. The goal is not to just provide a bunch of things the user could be looking for, but the right thing.

Within a hospital website, there is a lot of context we can glean from the visitor’s actions. If the visitor is looking at birthing plans and from that page searches for a provider, we can expect they are looking for an OB/GYN. Knowing about the visitor’s intent allows us to sort the results to provide the most relevant providers first.

This context drives us to continue to evaluate and update our search logic. In the release of VitalSite 15, we updated the way that provider search works to prioritize results based on the match to the taxonomy term on the page. In other words, results now take the context of the search into account first, as seen in the chart below.

NameFirst PrioritySecond PriorityThird Priority
Alphabetical AscendingHighest Term WeightAlphabetical A-Z
Alphabetical DescendingHighest Term WeightAlphabetical Z-A
Best MatchSearch Relevance (Closest distance for Zip)Highest Term WeightAlphabetical A-Z

Highest term weight compares the taxonomy of the visitor’s page with the taxonomy of the provider so that providers more like that service line are seen in the result list first.

It’s all about user experience

These small tweaks to the way we think about providing data to a website visitor not only means we are constantly reviewing how the website is used, but also ensuring that our client’s website becomes more relevant to visitors. We want to reduce the sense that visitors often have on websites: feeling like they are lost. Small changes like this make a big difference in the visitor’s experience.

How can you use these changes to make the most out of your search? See another recent post to learn from a specific example: Physician-Seeking Behavior.

Jennie Ocken

Why Context Matters in Effective Website Search