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International Automotive Technicians Network
Massive Improvements to the Search Engine
Posted to Open Discussion Forum on 6/17/2014 27 Replies

Hello everyone,

For the past two months, we have been working to make some major improvements to our next generation search engine for the iATN Knowledge Base. These updates have been released steadily over the past few weeks, with the last of them launching today.

If you haven't tried the new search engine recently, please keep reading, and then give it a try:

The new search engine launched into beta last year, and offers many, many improvements over our legacy search engines. It will soon be taking precedence over those legacy search engines, which means we'll start showing it by default to newer premium members, and we'll be prompting existing premium members to use it as the preferred search interface. (The legacy search engines will remain available to existing premium members for the foreseeable future, but will not be receiving any updated features.)

Many of these improvements came from feedback from members, so please keep it coming, by clicking the "Feedback" link at the bottom/right side of the search engine.

Read on to see what's new and improved!

We've made many improvements to our Smart Vehicle Builder.

What's New: Smart Vehicle Builder now provides better results, and allows more flexibility in filtering down to specific submodels and engine sizes just by typing them. E.g. Build a 2006 Ford F-150 XLT 5.4L by typing "06 f150 5.4" and selecting from the short list of vehicles. VINs are also more forgiving, by recognizing and ignoring common mistakes. And now during the vehicle build process, we return up to 30 suggested vehicles, rather than the previous 10, which should make it even easier to use.

For those unfamiliar with the existing Smart Vehicle Builder feature: The search engine is most powerful when you are doing a specific vehicle-based search, which you can do very easily by typing a year, make, and model (or even just a year and model), or by typing or pasting a VIN into the search box, and selecting one of the vehicles shown. Building a specific vehicle allows us to expand your search to include not only documents related to that specific vehicle, but other vehicles with the same engine package, which we do by default. (You also have control over how the specific vehicle is used… just click the vehicle's box to adjust whether it's searching based on similar engine package, similar models any engine, exact vehicle, and more.)

We've introduced a new feature we refer to as Vehicle Builder Assistant.

Although we feel that building a specific vehicle by typing year/make/model or entering a VIN is the fastest way, we recognize that many of you prefer the older "click-to-build" style of vehicle entry. We also found that many of you don't build a specific vehicle, but simply search based on make and model names. The results will generally not be as good this way, as we are unable to do some of the smarter filtering based on similar models, unless you tell us the precise vehicle you're working on.

For example, a search for "camry" will yield all documents that contain that model name, but if you told us you were working on that 2006 Toyota Camry 2.4L, we could include documents tied to the models of Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, RAV4, Solara, Scion tC and Scion xB that share the same engine package (and similar variations). You can't get that by typing "camry."

What's New: With Vehicle Builder Assistant, we notice what keywords you've entered, and what filter categories you've applied, and we try to help you build a specific vehicle. For example, if you search for "camry" now, you're only 2 clicks away from building a specific vehicle. You can ignore the Vehicle Builder Assistant and search however you like, but it's there if you want it.

You can also start a new search using the Assistant. Just click on the new vehicle icon that appears on the right side of the search bar, and we'll start by asking you which model year you're interested in, and help you build a vehicle "the old-fashioned way." :-)

Many improvements to Supercharged Search®

What's New: In addition to incorporating the latest improvements from Identifix, we've boosted the number of Supercharged Searches by about 5 times what we were doing previously, and improved the reliability of the results returned.

PLUS, you now have more control over whether or not a term is Supercharged. By default, we will Supercharge any term that we can, as it normally gives you better results. But now you can disable this on a term-by-term basis. Just look for the terms with a lightning bolt next to them, and you can click them to disable Supercharged Search temporarily for that term.

For those unfamiliar with Supercharged Search: This feature comes courtesy of our sister company, Identifix. It enables us to find documents based on auto terminology similar to the words you've typed, providing you with many additional matches accounting for the different ways people refer to things in this industry. For example, "misfire" is will also match "Miss", "Engine Misfire", "Missing", "Cylinder Misfire", "Misfires", "Skipping/Misfire", "Misses" and similar terms.

Recognizing what you want instead of what you type

We're continuing to fine-tune the search engine based on the types of searches we see performed. So if you type "waveform," now instead of searching for the word "waveform," we're going to search our file library for waveform files. Same thing goes for scandata, photos, documents, and datafiles. Similarly, if you type forum, file or TechHelp, we'll actually search in those areas of the Knowledge Base, rather than searching for those keywords. If you really wanted to search for any of those terms, just wrap it in quotes when you type it. E.g. type "forum" with the quotes, and we'll literally search for the word "forum" in our index.

User Experience Improvements

We made many changes to speed up searches, by eliminating unnecessary queries (such as when navigating forward/backward in your search history to results we've already downloaded).

We added a progress bar so that you can now more easily tell when the search engine is doing something.

When you're searching in the forums area, the Forums category filter on the left now shows you all forums, rather than just the top 10 by document count.

We now highlight the last document you clicked on in the search results, so that when you return to the search results, you can easily see where you left off. It remembers the highlighting for each search result, so if you are navigating back through your search history, the highlighting will still be there for every page.

The filter categories on the left have always started out collapsed by default, and auto-expand when you hover over them (except on mobile/tablet, where we can't detect "mouseovers" so we expand them by default). We do this collapsing/expanding because most of the categories have many filtering options, and there are so many categories to choose from... we want to make it easier to see them all. However, prior to today, it could be annoying to use, with them sometimes collapsing when you didn't expect it. This is now fixed. Any category you hover over will stay expanded during your current search.

Major improvements to the indexed data, DTCs and ranking algorithm

We haven't just focused on the user experience. We've spent a lot of time on the quality of the indexed data, including eliminated many false positives, especially for DTCs. Because of the many ways people type (and mistype) DTCs, we do some pretty vigorous DTC parsing to try and capture as many DTCs in documents as we can. As it turns out, perhaps a bit too vigorous. :-) We have improved these algorithms, and will continue to fine-tune them as we go. We also improved the results you get when typing in DTCs by hand, rather than using the DTC category filter on the left side bar… they should now be more equitable.

There are too many bug fixes and incremental feature improvements to list them all, but suffice it to say, your experience using the search engine should be vastly improved.

If you are having any issues, or would like to provide feedback, please use the Feedback link at the bottom right side of the search engine. Or if you just want to discuss the search engine, feel free to reply here. Thanks!

Here are the primary features of the new search engine, for those unfamiliar with it:

It allows you to search across all of iATN from a single place, and it's FAST. No longer do you need to go into separate search engines for the forums, files, and fix database, nor learn the different ways each of those search engines work.

You can quickly filter down into interesting documents without even typing: Just click on the category filters on the left-hand side of the search engine. For example, click the new "Has Vehicle" filter under the "Options" category, and you'll be looking at everything posted on iATN that has had a specific vehicle attached to it, across files, forums and TechHelp.

You can easily build and search based on a specific vehicle, in a variety of ways. This allows us to make your search more powerful than if you merely type or choose a make or model.

You can quickly filter down to documents written by a specific author, by typing "by …" such as "by danny iwama," to find all messages by Danny Iwama. Likewise, find replies made to someone by typing "to …", such as "to paul baltusis", to search for replies made to Paul Baltusis in the forums. Shortcut: type "by me" or "to me" to find posts by and to you.

Filtering by date is both extremely easy and powerful. Type "in 2012" and hit enter. Or "since last month" or "from jan 1 to jan 7" and hit enter.

We try to sort things automatically so it makes sense. If you're searching by an author's name, or with a category filter, we'll sort by date. If you're searching based on a vehicle or keyword, we'll sort by most relevant (highest scoring). But you can change the sort preference at any time.

You can subscribe to any date-sorted search as a feed (i.e. RSS). What this means is if you've stumbled across a really interesting set of search results, and you want to know anytime there is a new result that matches, you can do it. Just click the "feed" icon that appears in the right side of the keyword bar when your search is date sorted.

We will continue to focus on improving the search engine to provide the best possible experience. Please keep your feedback coming, we appreciate it!

Thomas Winzig
Brea, California, USA

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