Yep - it’s not bad either. But if you consider search as a strategic asset to avoid wasteful energy, it gets a bit more complex. Here are the key points that a few of my clients suggested for the system I crafted.
A key requirement - perhaps the most important - in search is relevance. Users have demonstrated little tolerance for search results that fail to be organized and ranked by degrees of importance. To be effective, search outcomes must be ordered using a ranking algorithm of some sort, otherwise, you’re still just groping for information and flat lists are especially useless when the number of hits is significant.
Consider a search query for “sales projections”. If these keywords appear in the name of an Airtable base, it’s probably far more relevant than when it appears in a field, a comment, or an attached document. Likewise, an attached document containing this search phrase would probably be more helpful than when it appears in a note field. And lastly, even subtle nuances like this phrase in proper-case elevate the index to a higher value.
Ideally, the ranking algorithm should be configurable because we all build tables and data models differently and for different purposes.
For search solutions to be effective, they must span Workspaces, Bases, and Tables in the context of each user’s security envelope.
When a search reveals specific records with fields that contain collections of items (such as attachments), each of the attached documents should be treated as individual artifacts. This is to say that …
- They should be presented as discrete hits if (and only if) the file name or content they posses match the query.
- They should be individually ranked. A document whose title is “Sales Projections” should rank well above a document whose text only includes this query phrase.
- They should each be discretely accessible. You don’t want to click one link to open the record and then have to search further for the document attachment that is of greatest interest. Instead, the search results should present direct links to the most relevant documents however deeply they may exist in the record structure.
A key requirement for indexing solutions is the agility to create and manage multiple indexes. While the idea of an all-knowing unified search solution is certainly appealing, the realities of search in organizations are more stringent. There are security and accessibility concerns that must be considered. Index management must be agile; the indices must be easily shaped and shared to meet each organization’s needs.
Results as Data
Search results should be delivered in a format where they can be manipulated. If each “hit” is served up as a native Airtable record complete with links to bases, tables, records, and attachments – users are more able to use the results in other processes and analyses. They can use the features of Airtable to sort, organize, filter, and share the results as new data sets.
I like the simplicity of the Search Block, but it fails to meet some of the most important aspects of search and misses the mark on many innovative possibilities.