Building high-end search features at low cost with Apache Solr

One of the best things about the increased use of open source search technology is that features that were previously unattainable for clients with small budgets are now within reach. Our client Bride and Groom Direct, a UK-based business selling wedding gifts and stationery, asked us if we could help improve the search features on their website and in particular the auto-suggest – and they asked us to take a look at the website of US mega-retailer for inspiration. They particularly liked the way that while you type, Sears’ website doesn’t just show you suggested words but also clickable picture previews of products you might be looking for.

Using Apache Solr and in under two days we built them a similar feature for their website: since we didn’t have direct access to their development servers we provided both Solr configuration files and a simple JQuery/Javascript demo of the features they needed (it’s about 170 lines of code). Their own developers then integrated these changes based on our notes. I think it’s safe to say that Bride and Groom Direct are a rather smaller business than Sears, but with open source they can have access to equally good search facilities. They’ve been kind enough to let us feature them on our Clients page and as you can see, they’re happy with the results.

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