Viewzi, rich interactive search results for WordPress

  • December 17th, 2008

As much as I prefer WordPress as my blogging platform, I have never been a fan of the baked in search functionality which has proven to be hit or miss – more often a "miss".

WordPress will search your posts but overlook any custom pages or discussions. To fill the void, I relied on Dan Cameron’s plugin – Search Everything. Despite the thoroughness of the plugin, I realized that I still wanted more from search results. More in the sense that the input field at the top of the page should search ALL of my content – not limiting itself to just 5thirtyone.com. As an example, there is no reason why a search for "volkswagen" shouldn’t bring up results from blog posts or comments and Flickr photos.

Two start ups are fighting to replace [or supplement] the search field at the top of your site for searching all of your online content: Viewzi and Lijit. I took a look at both, installed the two, played with integration, and checked / compared search results. In the end I decided the best choice was Viewzi for its attractive execution and upcoming features. This is a walk through of the service, setup, and integration.

Background behind the Viewzi search plugin

Viewzi search results for Apple iPhone

Although the Viewzi search plugin is relatively new, the company behind the service has offered its search engine to the public for quite some time (see Crunchbase profile). Viewzi is not trying to revolutionize how websites are indexed. Instead, the service aims to offer users a unique interactive dimensional slice for search query. Viewzi makes use of a handful of API’s from the likes of Google, Yahoo, and Ask.com to generate its rich search results.

Integrating Viewzi with your own site

Integrating Viewzi with your WordPress powered site is a quick and painless process requiring five steps taking no more than 5-minutes:

  1. Register an account at Viewzi.com
  2. Download the Viewzi search plugin
  3. Unzip and upload to your plugins directory /wp-content/plugins
  4. Activate the Viewzi plugin (add your unique activation code)
  5. Insert the Viewzi function wherever you want the search field to appear

The end result is a basic search field ready for any additional CSS you might want to sprinkle on top.

Search results, what to expect on a Viewzi enabled site

It is immediately obvious that the Viewzi search plugin lacks some of the richer channels utilized by the main site Viewzi.com. However, what you do get works very well with lucene indexing of your your posts, custom pages, and comments all in a single attractive view overlaying your site. For those that may not like the idea of mixing post results with reader comments, the plugin offers an "Only Posts" filter.

Viewzi blog results thumbnail Viewzi flickr results thumbnail Viewzi timeline results thumbnail

Currently (as of 12/16/08), Viewzi offers three distinct views of results: Blog Search (filtering for Only Posts, Only Comments, or a combination of the two), Flickr (index of your Flickr photos matching the search terms), Blog Timeline (horizontal visual of activity on your site), and Blog Video (disabled on this site for lack of video content). Additional "channels" are expected.

Viewzi Search vs. WordPress default

How does Viewzi compare to the default WordPress search engine?

  Viewzi WordPress
Posts Yes Yes
Pages Yes No
Comments Yes No
Combined external results Yes No
Engine Lucene (Google/Yahoo) SQL

Viewzi is the better choice when it comes to replacing the default search field for a WordPress site. I contemplated going the route of Google Custom Search for more accurate results – but why integrate a chunk of code which looks out of place on 75% of websites? The great thing is that Viewzi results – of your site – are powered by Google, Yahoo, and Ask.com APIs.

Viewzi vs. Lijit

Viewzi and Lijit are both appealing options for anyone who wants all of their online content indexable and searchable by visitors on their site(s). However, based on the current interfaces of both services, Viewzi offers a richer, simpler, more attractive experience.

Viewzi UI Lijit UI

Other WordPress search options: plugins & add-ons

  • Viewzi – Search replacement. Modal window renders results using an attractive UI with lucene indexing.
  • Lijit – Search replacement. Modal window renders your site results alongside your other social sites.
  • Search Everything – Improves the searchability of your database to include pages, comments, drafts, attachments, and more.
  • wpSearch – Replaces the standard WordPress search with the open source lucene engine.
  • Sphinx – Full text search engine. Installation instructions for WordPress.