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The Challenge

Wellington City Council found themselves in a common predicament—a looming deadline for the replacement of their Google Search Appliance, with a short timeline for a replacement. This was no small GSA implementation. With an implementation across multiple websites including the main council and library website, along with vital search features that were used by up to 3000 people an hour, search was an essential feature of the website. A service disruption or degradation of the user experience was simply unacceptable.

The Approach

One eye on the clock, the other looking ahead. Given the timeline, Wellington City Council took a sensible and conservative approach; a like-for-like replacement of their Google Search Appliance, ensuring neither end-user search features nor administrative controls were lost in their migration to a new platform.

Despite the pressing timeline, council staff were also looking to the future, and were keen to ensure that their new search platform would grow with their anticipated needs. Specifically they wanted to know their chosen platform had the capability to provide:

  • a significantly enhanced search experience to end users with robust useful search functionality and user interface features
  • greater administrative controls, empowering both the content teams and the development teams alike
  • the capability to scale licences up seamlessly to provide search across additional websites and content repositories.

The Solution

After a well run and pragmatic tender process which took into account the tight timeframe, Squiz Funnelback was chosen as the platform and vendor of choice. Squiz presented an ambitious timeline, with just 22 days between day one of the project and the start of the short go-live process, so efficiency was of the utmost importance.

To their credit, Wellington City Council came with very clear requirements which we further refined collaboratively in the Technical Discovery phase via Stakeholder workshops. Requirements included:

  • Like for like or similar search results from GSA to be displayed in Funnelback.
  • Richer UI e.g. type-ahead suggestions, expression based searches.
  • Improvements in result relevancy – ability to tune the search to deliver better results.
  • The solution should be sized to handle double the current volume of search queries.
  • Rapidly returned search results
  • Search should be available and functional 24/7.

During this phase we uncovered a range of additional search functionality and administrative controls which we could implement, without increasing either the quoted cost or timeline, including:

  • Advanced Contextual navigation
  • Advanced Faceted search
  • Best bets
  • Auto query completion.

Drawing on our experience of over 20 successfully completed GSA to Funnelback migrations we deployed Funnelback via a proven implementation approach.

Wellington City Council greatly aided the efficient delivery of this project, coming to the project with strong project management, a sensible vision, an intelligently chosen set of requirements, and all the requisite supporting information.

The project was not without its challenges, however, our team worked alongside the Wellington City Council project team to ensure these issues were resolved on time and on budget.

wellington nz night

The Result

It was important that website users experienced no decline in the search service; we were quickly able to get search results for all of Wellington City Council’s most common site searches that were equivalent to or improvements upon the results from the GSA. Through the use of Funnelback’s automated relevance tuning and a collection of training data provided by the project team, this was achieved in short order.

Furthermore, Funnelback’s Content Curator allows the content team to link specific search results to any given keyword based on simple to use business rules, ensuring the right message is delivered every time.

Going beyond this, end users now have a range of new search functionality they can use to rapidly find the right information, and Wellington City Council’s web team have new administrative tools to manage, understand and fully leverage their information.

With their new website search safely in place well before their GSA licence is due to finish, Wellington City Council now have a future-proofed search solution which empowers end users and search administrators alike.

If you’re interested in how you can quickly and painlessly shift from Google Search Appliance to Funnelback, get in contact with Squiz.

Further reading: How to smoothly transition your search service: ur-search-service

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