Redesigning Search: Collections, Categories & Curriculums

Redesigning Search: Collections, Categories & Curriculums

Written by Scott (Teach Starter)

Key points

  • Improved search results based on categories, collections and curriculums.
  • Search for specific curriculum codes within the Curriculm.
  • Better instant search. Full search sidebar appears as you type in the primary search box.

The story

Search is difficult.

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It is precisely why Google is one of the largest companies in the world today. They built a superior search that provided people with relevant and accurate results, at a time when others hadn’t.

At Teach Starter, we handle a growing number of searches each month. Thanks to the wonders of the modern internet, we are able to see these anonymous search queries and study exactly what our members are looking for.

This data helps immensely with our resource creation planning, as well as ensuring that we categorize and tag our resources according to what our members are searching for.

While analyzing this data, we noticed a pattern of distinctive search types:

  • Specific resource searches: e.g. Homophones resource pack
  • Collection searches: e.g. bingo
  • Category searches: e.g. science
  • Curriculum searches:

With this in mind, we set about redesigning how our search would function and how it would deliver accurate results to our members.

The problem

In the past, if you typed in science you would have been bombarded with a list of resources which included the word science somewhere in the content. This meant that the search results, although science related, were somewhat random.

Other issues also arose around keyword searches for words which could have multiple meanings, like time. To us, time would mean resources about telling the time. To our search engine, it could mean telling the time or timestables.

Fortunately, our team has been manually curating our content into a series of categories and collections.

For example, our categories include:

  • Key learning areas (and specific sub-categories within these)
  • Year levels
  • Resource types
  • School fonts
  • Curriculum alignment (Australia, United States, United Kingdom)

Our collections include a few thousand unique tags, ranging from rainforests to Christmas. Each collection could contain resources from many different categories. For example, rainforests could contain a resource with information about the Amazon Rainforest (Science/Geography), as well as a multiplication activity in a rainforest theme (Numeracy).

An important category that we have been slowly curating content for is curriculum alignment. This includes the Australian National Curriculum, Common Core State Standards in America and the National Curriculum in England.

This is a painstakingly slow process which requires reading each curriculum code description and then assigning the relevant resources to it.

As part of our new publishing process, every new resource is assigned to its specific curriculum code. However we have a back catalog containing thousands of resources which still need to be aligned!

So how do we combine our human-curated content with computer-generated keyword search results to provide our members with relevant and accurate results?

The improvement

Keyword search has been refined over decades, so there was no reason for us to re-invent the wheel.

Our first solution was to implement a decent third-party search plugin. We looked into using a few different providers, including Google, but ended up going with Swiftype.

Swiftype is a company that sells search engines for websites and mobile applications and creates a PageRank specific to individual websites and mobile applications.

Now that we had a strong fundamental search engine in place, we could focus on incorporating our collections, categories and curriculums.

We decided to keep these items separate when the results were displayed. This meant that a standard search would return individual resources, but also highlight collections and categories that matched.

To incorporate curriculums, we decided to match the search query to curriculum codes. Because the codes are quite specific, we could perform a direct word match. When a curriculum code match was made, the description and associated resources would be displayed.

Now, while all of this seems quite technical (and some of it is), to you as a user, the search will hopefully be a seamless experience that will greatly assist in pointing you in the right direction to find exactly what you’re looking for.

We dont yet know if our new system has improved our members experience. We are certainly looking forward to the feedback and reviewing the data to see how our new search changes the way our members find the resources they need!

Go on, give it a try!

Please feel free to provide any feedback in the comments below, or email [email protected] We would love to hear what you think of the new search and any suggestions you might have!

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