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My Users Don't Like SharePoint because they can't find what they're looking for! Part 2

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Editor's note: Contributor David Lozzi is a SharePoint Architect at Slalom Consulting. Follow him @DavidLozzi

In the previous post, we covered how easy it is to enhance search to assist your users in finding what they really want. Our next step is to ensure your data is in fact clean enough and properly loaded to find in search.

- What, my data isn’t clean? My data is perfect! -

Whoa now, let me explain:

Garbage In, Garbage Out


Like your mom always said, “You are what you eat”. It’s even more true of SharePoint, if you don’t put in good data, you won’t get good data out: which includes the simple task of finding your data. Pretty straight forward right?

Your documents and data are not dirty or bad. Your vacation policy is great, explains exactly what it needs to. Documents are loaded with all the information they’re suppose to have. Awesome. However, what happens when the CEO wants to search for notes from an executive meeting that occurred sometime in the past, which focuses on your Acme Widgets product line? They can search for the product Acme Widget, but search will return all of the info in SharePoint: sales, marketing, support, meetings, etc. Poor poor CEO, he has to wade through dozens if not hundreds of items.

How can we help this search experience? Wouldn’t it be cool if the CEO could drill into the search results? Something like: search for Acme Widget (200 items) > select Word document (120 items) > select Meeting Notes (25 items). The CEO would be able to find the document much easier that way, right?


What is metadata exactly? Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about it:

- Descriptive metadata… is about individual instances of application data, the data content. In this case, a useful description … would be “data about data content” or “content about content” thus metacontent. -

It’s okay, we won’t use the term metacontent. The above may or may not muddy the waters for you. Let’s try an example: when you create a calendar event, you enter in a bunch of information into the fields, or columns. These columns explain the event: location tells you where, category tells you what kind of event it is, start and end times, etc. This is basically metadata: your content explaining the content.

Metadata is critical for effective document management because there is so little metadata available on most documents. We need to add metadata to allow the CEO (and all users) to really find that specific document they’re looking for.

Add more fields.

Like a list, a document library can have additional columns added to it. This is simple to do, just like adding columns to a list, you can add them to document libraries. Once you add a new column, your users will be prompted to specify the value of the after they upload a document. If you haven’t added a column, you won’t get prompted for the additional metadata. Upload a document, and you’ll be redirected to the view you were last looking at. No additional metadata collection.

Let’s go ahead and add a column to a library (click the Create Column button in the ribbon for a quick way of adding your column). I added a Category column to Shared Documents. When I upload a document, I am immediately prompted to specify the additional information:


Pretty straight forward, right? Your users will be prompted to specify the additional information.

Add some Managed Metadata.

What? I thought we were managing metadata.

True enough, we are. However, SharePoint offers a service called Managed Metadata Service, this offers a centralized location for storing keywords across your entire farm. This can store product names, departments, companies, etc. When Managed Metadata Service is installed correctly, you’ll see the option at the bottom of the list of column types when you add a new column.


Select this type and you can select your term store (where all the metadata lives) a little further down the page. You may need to connect with your SharePoint administrator/IT department to understand the term stores that are there now, and ask to add your own. Once this column type is added, users can select from a predefined list of keywords.


I added a Managed Metadata column called Meeting, which pulls up a list of meeting types. See the little helper drop down? Pretty neat, eh?

Keep it as simple as possible.

If you’re going to add additional fields to your document libraries, try to keep it as simple as possible. If you don’t your users may come to hate it.

  • Avoid adding a lot of columns.
  • Use default values whenever possible.

You want to add the extra metadata to help find documents, but you don’t want to drive users crazy. There’s a balance. You can probably get away with 2 or 3 fields at the most.

Using your new metadata to find your documents.

In most cases, if you’re using the Managed Metadata column, your columns will appear as refiners in the search results page. You can modify the refiner web part some more, see TechNet:

One more thing on search, is your search returning PDF results? Not just the name of the PDF, but the contents within the PDF. If not, add it. It’s free and pretty easy to do. Check out to get you started.

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

Categories: SharePoint; Adoption; Search and Indexing; MOSS; WSS; 2010; Managed Metadata




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Posted 18-Apr-2014 by yitoyitoytyo

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