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Search driven publishing model and cross site publishing

Two features that I saw at the SharePoint conference that excited me as an interaction designer were the search driven publishing model and the ability to do cross-site publishing.

Search driven publishing model

The search driven publishing model is a new way of thinking about publishing in SharePoint. The simplified explanation of it is that you use search to index your content, and you query the search index to return the type of content that you want to display. The results of that query can be styled or displayed however you wish, and the fact that it is driven by search is completely unknown to the user.

We have been accustomed to thinking about publishing in SharePoint 2010 like this: "I have content that lives on a page, that lives within a site, that sits in a site collection, and that the hierarchy of that content is important to how you want to display that information." Search driven publishing starts more like this: "I have content about X, how should I display it?" You can then begin the process of tagging your content appropriately, so that it can be displayed in the format and location that suits your structure.

You might be wondering at this point, "Wait a minute, SharePoint 2010 had the ability to tag content. How is this going to be any different?"

In my opinion, that can be answered in two ways, each of which I think has the potential to provide great value.

1. The Content By Search Web Part

The Content By Search (CBS) Web Part is a new Web Part that allows you to take the results of your search query, and display them in the CBS Web Part. Out-of-the-box tagging in SharePoint 2010 was limited for the most part to lists and libraries, and if we wanted to display information that was tagged using the term store, it would mean custom development. With the Content by Search Web Part, we can use the search driven publishing model, query the results, and display that in a Web Part on any page. Pretty cool! The key thing here is that this is out-of-the-box in 2013, and it really is flexible enough to display content in the way that it needs to be displayed.

Here are some examples of its flexibility:

The tabbed control (customer favourites, staff recommendation, etc.) is a content by search Web Part, but so is the feature content switcher above it!

Content by search webpart example 1

The container for news items is a Content by Search Web Part.

Content by search web part example 2

By now I'm sure you're able to recognize that the containers for cameras and videos in the main panel are Content by Search Web Parts. However, in addition to that, all the Web Parts that run down the right hand side (product data sheets, related documentation, recent blog posts) are all Content by Search Web Parts! This example to me is particularly striking because serving up related information in SP2010 was a custom effort that was considerable to say the least, and one that came up frequently on employee and customer portals. Now it is out-of-the-box!

2. Cross-site publishing

A lot of organizations that we work with have both an employee portal, as well as a customer portal. I can think of countless times where content needed to exist in both environments, whether it be news, documents, blogs, photos, videos, events, company values and so on. I'm sure in your own organization you can think of a few examples as well. In previous versions of SharePoint, the boundaries of site collections and farms prevented the sharing of content, and therefore had to be created multiple times by content authors — always a point of frustration.

In SharePoint 2013, the ability to publish across site collections and farms is now a reality! In a nutshell, this is what is required to turn this mystical dream into a reality.

  • Both environments must have access to the same search index.
  • The authoring environment needs to be separated out from the publishing environment.
  • The repository of content (list or library) must be declared as a "catalogue". (More on this in another blog post, but essentially it is a setting in a list or library that allows search to share the content across site collections and farms.)
  • Both environments must be on SharePoint 2013.