Browser London

The Challenge

How do you provide a search solution that improves the customer experience across a portfolio of data management products?

The Solution

By using Elasticsearch to deliver fast and reliable search results in any use case

Case study highlights

Improve user experience

  • Deliver millisecond query response
  • Update indexes quickly
  • Provide reliable and relevant search results

Strengthen sales potential

  • Demonstrate a proven track record in search
  • Focus on the customer experience
  • Increase customer confidence in the product portfolio

"Elasticsearch delivered the best combination of low cost, simple API, reliable results and future-proof scalability. Each of the alternatives offered less attractive packages in terms of cost, speed or barrier to entry."

Matt Senior, Lead Developer

Finding the right search solution for multiple data management products

Browser London is a UK-based firm providing beautifully-designed web products to handle data for the likes of the UK government and the National Health Service (NHS). These products include Jellybean, a web-based content management system (CMS); Allsort, an asset management system; and Twine, an HR management tool. The company deploys and hosts all of these tools for their clients on AWS.

"In terms of industry competitiveness, having a rock solid search system is absolutely mandatory," explains Julian Morency, Managing Director of Browser London. "There would be very little point in designing systems to organize our customer's data, without a fast, flexible way to retrieve it."

"Before deploying Elasticsearch, we experimented with various solutions including Amazon CloudSearch and Zend's PHP Lucene implementation," recalls Matt Senior, Lead Developer at Browser London. "Elasticsearch delivered the best combination of low cost, simple API, reliable results and future-proof scalability. Each of the alternatives offered less attractive packages in terms of cost, speed or barrier to entry."

Elasticsearch is used by Browser London clients and their customers within Jellybean, Allsort and Twine. Elasticsearch is the primary point of contact for listing content on the public-facing and admin-facing areas of all these products. About 2,000 registered users utilize Browser London systems that rely on Elasticsearch to display content once logged in, but many more users access public websites based on Jellybean and powered by Elasticsearch.

Elasticsearch delivers performance and usability

In Jellybean, Browser London's Symfony 2 CMS, Elasticsearch is used to index every piece of content on the system. In Jellybean's admin area, Elasticsearch populates every content list by listing, ordering and paginating data. On the public-facing side of a Jellybean website, Elasticsearch is used for any lists of data, such as the latest five news posts in a category. Elasticsearch is also used if the site requires a full content search feature. For example, Elasticsearch is used via Jellybean on the Passenger Focus website, www.passengerfocus.org.uk, to index a database of 3,000 research publications.

"The search products we initially tried gave varying results on the Passenger Focus website, often missing matches we expected," Senior recounts. "But Elasticsearch returned the results we expected straight out the box. Often there isn't time to tweak a search system as much as you'd like as a developer, so intuitive results like this are valuable to us."

"Nothing can destroy usability faster than slow performance. When our customers' public-facing websites rely on Elasticsearch, we rely on Elasticsearch to respond within milliseconds."

Julian Morency, Managing Director

"We build tools focused on great usability," Morency adds. "Nothing can destroy usability faster than slow performance. When our customers' public-facing websites rely on Elasticsearch, we rely on Elasticsearch to respond within milliseconds."

Browser London depends on Elasticsearch performance, not only in terms of query response speed but also timely indexing.

"The index needs to be up-to-date within a couple of seconds at the most," says Morency. "If our CMS users add a record or update their content, they expect to find this new content straight away. In Elasticsearch, we've never had a problem with an index not being up-to-date."

"Using tools like Elasticsearch allows Browser London to build products that make finding information easy. This saves the end user time and results in a more positive user experience."

James Blizzard, Developer

Depending on reliable search results

"Search engine traffic is one of the most valuable sources of traffic, if not the most valuable," Morency explains. "An internet user conducting a search has a specific intent. They are looking for something in particular. If they can't find what they're looking for, they become frustrated and go elsewhere – this is why reliability is so important."

Allsort, Browser London's asset management product, relies heavily on Elasticsearch allowing end users to quickly find the assets they need.

"For product data – be it on a large e-commerce website like Amazon or an asset management tool like Allsort – the complexity of the data can grow quite easily," adds James Blizzard, Developer, Browser London. "You're no longer just searching for part of a product name. You need to filter in far more detail – colors, brands, sizes, office locations, the list goes on. A key aspect to any asset management tool is the ease at which any given user can find the items they need. Using tools like Elasticsearch allows Browser London to build products that make finding information easy. This saves the end user time and results in a more positive user experience."

Browser London's HR tool, Twine, uses Elasticsearch to index the users on the system. When using an HR tool, it is essential to be able to find an employee's record with as little effort as possible, even if the user has minimal information on hand.

"We rely on Elasticsearch's default scoring to order the results, and have always been able to find what we need," says Senior. "By ordering our results by the 'score' – Elasticsearch's measure of search relevancy – we retrieve the results we expect in every scenario, straight out the box."

Flexibility and scalability to support custom development

Since Browser London develops custom solutions for a variety of clients, speed and efficiency in setting up complex bespoke search functionality is a must.

"Elasticsearch's flexibility allows us to build the right search and navigation experience for each client," Senior confirms. "The simplicity of managing Elasticsearch is a big plus. We're able to integrate routine processes, such as building indices, straight into our automated deployment process quickly and easily. Elasticsearch's RESTful API is very easy to work with as well."

"We often use Elasticsearch in our case studies," Morency concludes. "Our clients expect enterprise search in our products and custom web applications. We have to manage expectations by having the right software and partnerships in place. Elasticsearch gives us credibility, flexibility and peace of mind."

Browser London's benefits using Elasticsearch

High-performance search

Elasticsearch provides Browser London with high performance – in terms of fast query response and fast indexing – both essential advantages for website search functionality.

Development flexibility

Browser London's developers testify that Elasticsearch is easy to work with, empowering them to meet a variety of customer needs quickly and efficiently.

Reliable search results

Elasticsearch makes finding information easy, with more relevant results, which ultimately improves the end user experience.

Improved market confidence

The power of Elasticsearch offers credibility to Browser London as they offer their services to clients looking for powerful data management solutions.