improving search for NHS Brighton & Hove CCG using Apache Solr

Regular contact with Brighton & Hove CCGs e-Communications officer has meant that opportunities to review and implement continuous improvements to their website have been mutually beneficial.

Having built their site in Drupal we were confident we could manage the iterative changes that were bound to arise from the collaborative working practice we encourage.

One of the first changes we embarked upon was to improve the Search experience. With so much information available to both the public and health professionals on the Brighton & Hove CCG website, a strong search experience is vital.

The site, which comprises of separate sections for the public, GPs and other CCG staff, contains information heavy pages, uploaded documents and location based services which are syndicated from NHS Choices; all of which need to be searchable.

Until recently the search experience for each of these three sections was identical in functionality, differentiated only by the content that each surfaced, based on the section of the site. We felt that the site might benefit from the search functionality being tweaked on a section by section basis so that it was of more use to those specific users.

Following user feedback, four key areas for improvement were identified:

  1. Search results are hard to read.
  2. Health professionals are unknowingly using the public search and expecting results from the GP section of the site.
  3. Repeating a “Find your nearest” search requires navigating back to the homepage.
  4. NHS Choices results aren’t relevant to health professionals who are well acquainted with the NHS Choices website.

Here's the original search page display:

Original search display


While fairly minor changes, we felt these changes, if presented correctly,  would have a positive impact on usability.

So, what we did was:

  1. Update search results display to allow the user to quickly identify the type of content and to assess the relevancy of each result. This involved:
    • Showing a snippet of the page content that highlights the search query.
    • Documents are displayed throughout the site in an accordion style that includes a descriptive header and summary text, we used this content in the result display rather than just the document title.
  2. The initial request was to include search results from every section of the site on the single result page. After discussion we decided this approach would be a step backwards and would add unnecessary complexity for the majority of users. Our solution was to display a link that would take the user to the other sections of the site and perform the same search
  3. The simplest solution is usually the best. We added the ‘Find your Nearest’ (FYN) block to the search results page so a user can easily repeat the search.
  4. While the NHS Choices results may not be relevant to GPs using the site they still provide value to members of the public. For this reason we didn’t want to remove them completely but instead allow a user to hide those results specifically. An option to hide NHS Choices results was added to the search filters.

You can see the changes below:

Search differences annotated


It was really important for users to be able to search flexibly across the site, wherever they had started from.  Some of the data we hold is aimed at patients and members of the public, and some at busy GPs, so the updated search functionality had to be really intuitive to use.  Being able to meet and discuss the changes with Miggle has made the process a lot easier - the Miggle team has improved on our original ideas and suggestions and I have been able to discuss the user feedback we’re receiving and plan the improvements we needed step by step.  I’m confident users will find the site more accessible and helpful with the improvements we’ve made.
Christopher, E-Communications Officer at Brighton & Hove CCG

Using Drupal allows us to make iterative changes to a focussed area of the site and provides an effective way of separating content across subsections of the site. This, combined with having a solid working relationship with our client helps us work together to come up with ideas to improve on an ongoing basis.

If you want to take back control of your web sites and applications then get in touch with miggle to see how we can deliver operational freedom for you in Drupal.