Done! Embed 3rd party search pane (was: The search could not be completed because the search keywords were too short, too long, or too common.)

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Jan 26, 2020
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Can the minimum letters for searches be decreased from 4 letters to 3? For example, looking for my NUD on my Kala KTU-C, searching "KTU", "KTU-", "KTU-C", even "NUD" would all elicit the error. Searching "Kala" would bring up lots of maybe related but irrelevant posts. There are many 3-letter models out there. You'd even be out of luck searching "koa".
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Not being a software engineer, I let the robot at ChatGpT take a crack at it. It said,

Q. why does forum search say phrase is too short

A. In most forums, the search function requires a minimum number of characters to be entered in order to prevent searches for single letters or very common words. This is because these types of searches are often too broad and return too many irrelevant results, which can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. By requiring a minimum length for the search phrase, forums can improve the accuracy and usefulness of their search results.
Typically, the minimum length for a search phrase is set between three and four characters, although this can vary from forum to forum. If you try to search for a phrase that is shorter than the minimum length, you will usually receive an error message indicating that the phrase is too short. To get better results, you can try adding additional words to your search phrase to make it longer and more specific.

I suspect that the software engineers here at UU probably just use the default settings for whatever software they are using, but it will be interesting to hear their take on it.

By the way, I have often in the past used Google to cure limitations of a forum's search algorithm. Using Google with the phrase after your search phrase will return results. Example:

NUD as a search phrase in Google returns a ton of stuff.
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We had a conversation about the search and a need for a FAQ type thing about optimizing search results, so I'll see if I can dig that out, but yes, I remember the Google site search was one of the suggestions, including using "" to specify exact phrases. Maybe, like Baz's site, we can add that tool into our search tool? I'll ask the experts to weigh in (@Arcy ) - I'm just here as team support ;)
This is a limit of the underlying search system we have available. It doesn't index short words, so we can't even allow-list them. Any improvements would need to come at the hosting level. This isn't something that we can do directly from our side.

I can think of two options to improve the experience:
  1. Documentation. As @ploverwing says, a how-to-effectively-search FAQ including instructions on using external search engines would help here.
  2. Embed a 3rd party search pane. I'll have to look into what that will take both to install and to manage.
I'm going to put the second on the backlog until I have themes sorted out, and if anybody has other ideas please keep them coming!
An update on this: there is now an Advanced Search option available which handles short search terms. It's with the menu items, depending on whether you're on mobile or desktop. On mobile, it looks like this:

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