Search box + filters = Speed

We post a lot of content and frankly, we don’t expect everyone to read everything. This is why we put a lot of effort into making our search engine better. By clicking on the filters and typing search terms into the search box, you can easily narrow down on the items that really matter to you.

We’re happy that many of you have discovered the power of filters and search, as we now see that more people are using filters and search than clicking on “Next”. It’s great to see power users building complex queries like this one and this one.

There’s a lot you can do with filters and search, but as the query becomes more complex, the search needs more time to run. If you have a seriously complex query, the search could fail because your web browser can only wait so long to receive the results.

Here’s the good news: You can make search run faster by using both the search box and the filters rather than just the search box or filters alone. This might sound counterintuitive, but combining the search box and filters allows the search engine to run more efficiently, and give you the results much more quickly.

Here is an example. Let’s say I want to see maps related to food and nutrition of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Normally, I would select the following filters:

  • Country: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey
  • Theme: Food and Nutrition
  • Vulnerable Groups: Refugees
  • Content Format: Map

When I ran this search, it took me 2.2 seconds to get the results back from ReliefWeb. Not bad.

But wait, it gets better. I can achieve the same results by selecting some filters, and using the search box to specify the rest of the criteria. This is what I did, and the result looks like this:

  • Search box: (@theme food and nutrition) (@vulnerable_groups refugees) (@content_format map)
  • Country: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey

This time, it look 0.6 seconds, or less than ⅓ of the time it took to run the same search using the filters alone. What I’ve done here is used the filters to specify the Countries, and the search box for everything else. You can find out how to use the @ character to specify fields on our search help page, but the key here is that you type something in the search box - you don’t need to use the @ character to get faster speeds.

The difference of 1.6 seconds is barely noticeable here, but for really complex queries it makes a huge difference. So next time you need to run a complex search, try using both the search box and the filters. Our search robot will appreciate it.