Refining the MSDN Search

December 4, 2008

Earlier this year, I participated in a dig into the new features of the MSDN/TechNet “enhanced” search engine.  You can read my original review here or check out Chris’ summary of our reviews here.

I had time this morning to sit down and check out the renovations to the site, based on our (and the community’s) feedback, and am very impressed. 

1. Originally, I had a bit of issue that I couldn’t pre-refine my topics from the original search page; I still can’t.  That’s a downer.  However, the new “Related To” links are fantastic and add a nice layer of filtering to the results.  Previously, you clicked a refinement and had to have blind faith on which articles would get filtered—now you can actually filter “like” articles, which I like.

2. The site seems to work MUCH better in FireFox—autocomplete and all.  The browser-integrated search even works well in FireFox.  Awesome.

3. The original test of the MSDN search had quite a bit of traffic running back and forth and a heafty payload; however, it looks like they’ve cut both the number of requests and size down (30 requests to 6 and 187k to 25k payload). 

Request Count:  6
Bytes Sent:  5,547
Bytes Received: 25,106

Requests started at: 10:53:36:7301
Responses completed at: 10:53:38:9341
Total Sequence time: 00:00:02.2040000
DNS Lookup time: 125ms
TCP/IP Connect time: 234ms

RESPONSE BYTES (by Content-Type)
image/gif: 1,135
 ~headers: 2,653
text/html: 21,318

There’s still a bit of traffic for the auto complete boxes and refinements seem to be total refreshes rather than on-the-fly filters, but it works quite nicely.  Results also come back pretty darn quick—almost Google quick!  I’ll, personally, live with a bit of the speed to keep the RSS resultset feeds. 🙂

4. They updated the TITLE tags on the results to list the search query FIRST.  That is stellar and greatly appreciated.

Updated MSDN Search Puts Query First!

5. I originally had an issue with how the search results parsed language and version of documentation.  It looks like they’ve gotten around that by removing the language refinements all together and focus on “.NET Framework {ver} Library”.  This also solves the issue of wondering what version the documentation is pointing to and allows additional refinement. Cool.

Versioning of Documentation Now Very Visible

The updates are definate winners—increases in performance and usability.  Thanks to Chris and his team for their continued work!

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