WordPress Global Admin Search Evolves To Tackle Bigger Problems

The WordPress Global Admin Search plugin, previously known as “Omnisearch”, is becoming a bigger project than it originally appeared to be. Searching the admin area of WordPress sounds so simple, right? But it turns out that search is a very nuanced feature that everyone has an opinion about.

Last week Matt Mullenweg held a meeting to select new features ready to merge into the core for WordPress 3.8, but Omnisearch required more discussion before moving on. Up until this point, George Stephanis, the plugin’s developer, hadn’t received much feedback on the plugin in its current form.

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Yesterday’s “Search Initiative” meeting provided a flood of feedback on how search might be used, what it should search and how it might be implemented.

Global Admin Search Aims to Solve A Long List of Problems

Stephanis outlined the pain points raised during the meeting surrounding the current state of admin search. One of the most bothersome things is that we have multiple search forms within the admin. If you want to search something you must first navigate to the correct thing you want to search, whether it’s posts, comments, custom post types, etc. This requires you to already know approximately where that content is located.

Working with results can also be troublesome, because it isn’t always clear why specific results have been included. If relevant data is stored in a postmeta field, it can be very difficult to find, because these fields are not indexed for searching. Also, a search query with no results found ends up being a dead end for users if a related or revised suggestion isn’t offered.

Next Steps to Advancing Admin Search

photo credit: 1D110 via photopin cc
photo credit: 1D110 via photopin cc
WordPress does not yet have a unified search results page to send people to on the back-end, so putting this in place would become part of this project. A possible implementation suggested during the meeting was a tabbed interface, which might include an ‘Overview’ tab and then others for different types of data being searched. Stephanis offers an example: a generic search term might land you on the overview tab but a search within the posts page for specific content would send you to the Posts tab with content displayed similar to how you would view results on their respective pages throughout the admin.

A number of other periphery suggestions came up, such as auto-suggesting results based on links off of the current page, similar to the Jarvis or WP-Butler plugins. It’s yet to be decided whether some of these things will be left for plugin territory.

Global admin search is likely to miss the 3.8 merge window that closes tomorrow, but will remain in active development for inclusion in an upcoming release. The project will evolve considerably to tackle the current issues with searching the admin and will hopefully provide an elegant solution in the coming days.

Timely feedback is valuable for shaping the future direction of the admin search. What do you think about where search is headed? Do you see yourself using the global admin search? What is the most important problem that search would solve for you?

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