Funnelback for higher education configuration reference



This document gives an overview of the configuration options of the Higher Education Packaged Solution.

This document is organised into sections corresponding to features of the search results page. Each section gives an overview of the feature and the terminology used, and lists all the configuration options of the feature.


This document is intended for users of the Higher Education Packaged Solution.

General considerations

Style and colors

The initial prototype implementation of the packaged solution will re-use the styles (CSS, fonts, colors, etc.) of the main website in a best effort fashion.

Minimum change in these styles can be configured (e.g. changing the color of specific elements, font size or weight, etc.) but if more dramatic changes are needed, a complete custom style sheet file (CSS) must be provided.


Various Funnelback components use icons. Alternative icons can be requested, either:

Funnelback Integration methods

Funnelback can be integrated with existing websites in two ways:

  • Funnelback only serves the list of results and search controls, and this page fragment is embedded inside the website CMS

  • Funnelback serves the whole results page, from header to footer

html integration options

CMS-embedded Funnelback fragment

With this method, Funnelback generates an HTML fragment rather than a full HTML page. The fragment is usually enclosed in a <div></div> tag. This fragment will be embedded as-is inside the page generated by the CMS.

This method has the following benefits:

  • Page layout, header and footer are still centrally managed in the CMS

  • Website visitors only see the main website URL

This method however requires some work on the CMS side to:

  • Perform the remote HTTP request to Funnelback to retrieve the results fragment

  • Pass through relevant URL parameters to Funnelback (e.g. user query, facet selection, etc.)

Funnelback serving the whole page

With this method, Funnelback generates a whole, standalone HTML page. When users search on the main website they’re redirected to the Funnelback server to access search results.

This method has the following benefits:

  • Quicker to setup, as no work in the CMS is required

  • Funnelback is often faster to serve search results than going through a CMS

This method however requires the page layout, header and footer to be kept in sync, within Funnelback, with the main website. This results in manual maintenance over time, although this can be mitigated by fetching the header & footer from the CMS directly (see the header & footer section for more information).

Additional resources

The online documentation contains more details about the different integration methods.

Search results page overview

search results page overview

The search results page is broken down in several components:

  • Header and Footer <1>

  • Tabbed navigation <2>

  • Search box and advanced controls <3>

    • Search box <4>

    • Shortlist toggle <5>

    • Search history toggle <6>

  • Auto-completion

  • Faceted navigation <7>

  • Search results

    • Summary of matching documents <8>

    • Sort and limit controls <9>

    • Spelling suggestions

    • Query blending

    • Best bets

    • Curator

    • Results <10>

    • Pagination <11>

    • No results message

  • Related searches <12>

Each component and the list of configuration options made are detailed in the following sections.

The header and footer are static content block that are always displayed at the top & bottom of the page.

The header usually contains a logo, a navigation menu and the search box.

content header

The footer usually contains additional links, contact details and copyright notices.

content footer

For a seamless search experience it’s recommended that the header and footer on the search results page are identical to the ones on the main website.

Header types

Static header and footer are implemented directly in the Funnelback template, usually by copying the HTML code of the website / CMS inside the Funnelback template.

  • Advantage: Easy to setup.

  • Drawback: Extra maintenance needed when the header changes as the Funnelback copy will need to be updated.

Header sourced from the website or CMS

Funnelback can include HTML fragments to use as header and footer. The HTML fragment can be sourced from a single HTML file (e.g. and or can be extracted from a complete webpage (e.g. , with configuration specifying which part of the page to extract as the header, and which part to extract as the footer, based on regular expressions).

  • Advantages: Header & Footer are still controlled in the main website / CMS, and any changes made to them will be reflected in Funnelback

  • Drawbacks:

    • Harder to setup (needs the website / CMS to provide static HTML files, or configuration to extract the HTML fragments from a complete page)

    • If the HTML fragments are extracted from a complete page and the structure of the page change, the extraction of the header and footer may break.

Configuration options

  • Choice of static or sourced header and footer

    • If static: The HTML code for the header and footer must be provided

    • If sourced: Static HTML pages must be provided at a well-known URL, or the HTML fragment extraction criteria must be provided

Note that this choice will depend on the Funnelback integration method, see the general considerations section for more details.

Tabbed navigation

The tabbed navigation allows to view only results from a specific section of the website (e.g. "News", "Events") or a specific source repository (e.g. "Staff", "Courses").

tabbed navigation

The tabbed navigation usually start with a All tab displaying all results <1>. The "All" tab is selected by default if present. Each tab has a name <2>, and shows the estimated number of results <3> for this tab. An optional icon <4> can be displayed.

Tabs results content

Results get assigned to tabs based on their URL prefix. For example:

Additionally when separate datasources are used for non-web data (e.g. indexing a staff directory as an XML file), the whole datasource can be configured to belong to a specific tab.

Tabs and faceted navigation

The selected tab can affect which facets are displayed. For example it’s possible to display only a Date and Format facet when the All tab is displayed, and only a Campus location facet when the Staff tab is displayed.

tab facet 1
Figure 1. 'People' tab shows a 'Campus' and 'Department' facets
tab facet 2
Figure 2. 'Events' tab shows different facets

Other tabs impacts

Apart from the faceted navigation and the fact that the results list will be scoped to the current tab, no other part of the search results page is affected by tab selection.

Configuration options

  • Number of tabs (recommended: No more than 6)

    • A list of URL prefixes mapped to each type must be provided

  • Presence of the "All" tab: It can be removed, in which case there is no tab to search across all content.

  • Tab names

  • Tab order

  • Optional tab icon

Search box and advanced controls

The search box has become an iconic symbol for search in general and is the go-to place for users when attempting to find answers to their questions.

The advanced controls allow the user to refine their results, interact with the shopping cart and the search history.

search box

The search box is where the user enter their search query <1>. It will also display auto-completion / concierge if configured <2> for every keystroke.

The shortlist <3> and history <4> toggle allows the user to access the results shortlist and the searches and clicks history.

Advanced controls


The shortlist toggle allows a user to access the list of shortlisted results. It also displays the number of shortlisted results.

shortlist toggle

When toggled, the shortlist is displayed instead of the current search results:


Search history

The search history toggle is used to get access to search and click history.

search history toggle

When toggled, past searches <1> and clicked results <2> are displayed instead of the current search results:

search history

Configuration options

  • Search icon (removal, or icon change)

  • Search button text and icon

For details about auto-completion, see the auto-completion section.

Shortlist toggle

  • Removal of the toggle (if the shortlist is disabled)

  • Toggle label (defaults to "Shortlist") and icon

Shortlist screen

  • The metadata field to display to describe each shortlisted result (defaults to the summary)

Search history toggle

  • Removal of the toggle (if the search history is disabled)

  • Toggle label (defaults to "History") and icon

Search history screen

No configuration options at this time.


Auto-completion provides the user with real-time suggestions as search terms are typed into the search box.

auto completion

Suggestions are displayed just below the search box. They can be divided in categories <1>, usually corresponding to the tabbed navigation. The display of each suggestion can be highly customised depending on its type (e.g. Course detail <2>, contact details <3>, etc.).

Alternatively, a simpler mode is possible to display only the simple suggestions.

auto completion simple

Configuration options

  • Choice of simple vs. complex suggestions

  • For complex suggestions:

    • Choice of categories (dependent of the datasource being indexed, recommended maximum: 3)

For each suggestion within the categories:

  • Title

  • Metadata fields (subject to metadata available in the datasource)

  • Optional icons

Faceted navigation

Faceted Navigation allows the user to refine their search based on categories automatically generated from the content or manually defined.


The faceted navigation panel will display a list of pre-configured facets such as Date, Format, Location, etc. Each facet <1> contains a list of categories <2>, or values, with the estimated number of documents matching the category <3>. When more than 8 categories exist, a More…​ link <4> is displayed to toggle them.

Facets can be configured to depend on the tabbed navigation (e.g. the All tab may show different facets than the People tab).

Facets definitions

The following facets are available out of the box:

  • Date: Create categories for the content modification date, on a list of predefined ranges (e.g. Past year, _Past month, Past 3 month, etc.)

  • Format: Create categories for the content type, for binary content (e.g. PDF, DOC, XLS)

  • URL: Allows drilling down by URL

Additionally, custom facets can be defined depending on the metadata available on the content. For example:

  • On a Staff Directory datasource, facets like Campus, Department or Position

  • On a Courses datasource, facets like Degree Type, Delivery Method, etc.

The ability to configure these facets will depend on the availability of the corresponding metadata in the datasource.

Configuration options

  • List of facets (subject to metadata availability in the datasource)

    • Facet label

    • Metadata to consider to generate the values

  • Order of facets

  • Optional: Association of facets with specific tabs (e.g. thee "Events" tab should show "Location" whereas the "People" tab should show "Department")

Search results

Search results display relevant content for the user search term and shows the correct amount of information to allow them to find quickly what they were searching for.

The search results display is broken down in several components listed below.

Summary of matching documents

matching documents summary

The summary of matching documents describes an estimate of how many documents matched the user search terms <1>. When there are multiple search terms, a breakdown of how many documents matched all of the search terms versus some of them is shown <2>.

Configuration options

  • Removal of the summary of matching documents

  • Simplification of the message (removal of the second part "…​where N match all words…​")

Sort and limit controls

sort control
limit control

The sort control <1> allows the user to sort search results.

The limit control <2> allows the user to choose how may search results should be displayed per page.

Configuration options

  • Removal of the sort control

  • List of sorting options (e.g. by "Title", "Date", etc.)

  • Removal of the limit control

  • Limit values (e.g. "10, 50, 100")

Spelling suggestions

spelling suggestions

The spelling suggestions will automatically suggest an alternative query term <1> in case of misspellings. Clicking on the suggested terms runs a new search for it.

Configuration options

  • Removal of the spelling suggestions

Query blending


The query blending notification indicates when a query has been automatically expanded and provide a link <1> to search for the original query entered by the user. The expansions include:

  • Automatic correction of spelling mistakes (e.g. "Univorsity" → "University" )

  • Automatic US/UK conflation (e.g. "Colour" → "Color")

  • Configurable list of query blending synonyms (e.g. "F.B.U." → "Funnelback University")

Configuration options

  • Removal of the query blending

  • If present, which expansion modes to enable/disable

Best bets

best bet

Best bet are used to display a featured result or a message when the search query match specific terms. The message has a title <1>, a description <2>, and a link <3>. The link is accessed by clicking on the Learn more button <4>. This message may be configured to stand out from search results or to look like an "organic" result.

Best bets are configured via the Marketing Dashboard.

Configuration options

  • Whether to display best bets as a stand-out message, or an organic search result


curator simple message

Curator allows customising the search results page in a number of ways. These customisations includes displaying a message identical to the Best Bet message, or a simpler one (A simple line of text, without description or link).

Configuration options

  • Look of the curator "simple" message



Each search result is displayed with a title <1>, its URL <2> and a summary <3>. An optional thumbnail <4> can be displayed. Additional result metadata can be displayed depending on their availability, such as the date <5>, content author, etc.

A label will indicate if the result link was clicked recently <6> (e.g. Last visited 1h ago).

Result display can be significantly different depending on the type of results, for example contact details for a person, or course details:

result people

Course results can have a shortlist toggle <7> to add/remove them from the user shortlist.

result course

The information to display will depend on the metadata availability on the datasource for each document.

Title and metadata fields

The title can come from:

  • Default HTML <title>. Recommended for better ranking and to avoid an extra search-specific "title" field in the CMS

  • Specific metadata (e.g. <meta name="…​" content="…​">)

Similarly, metadata values can come from:

  • Content metadata tags (e.g. <meta name="…​" content="…​">)

  • External metadata file (A file listing additional metadata to associate to individual URLs)

Default metadata fields include: Author, Description, Date, Description. Additional metadata fields can be defined in the content (e.g. <meta name="" content="Shakespeare">). Use of Dublin Core naming prefixes is recommended but not mandatory.

Content snippet

The content snippet for each result can either be:

  • A static string coming from a metadata field (e.g. the description of a course)

  • A query biased summary summary generated depending on the search terms. For example if searching for "science degree", the snippet will show an excerpt of the document containing those terms, and highlight them

Query biased summary is recommended because it gives more context for the user to determine if the results is relevant for the information they were searching for. However when displaying strongly structured results (such as staff contact details) it usually makes more sense to display only static metadata fields.

A fallback mechanism is possible so that if the chosen metadata field is empty, the dynamic summary will be used.

Optional thumbnail

A thumbnail can be associated with each result. This thumbnail can be:

  • An automatic preview screenshot of the target URL. This is only available for HTML documents (i.e. not PDF, DOC, etc.)

  • The URL of an image specified in a metadata field of the content (e.g. <meta name="thumbnail" content="" />). Twitter (twitter:image) and OpenGraph (og:image) metadata are supported by default

  • A specific image from the content itself, located using a CSS selector (e.g. div.article img.main to select the image with the CSS class main contained within a DIV with CSS class article)

  • Source (default title or metadata field)

  • Minor content transformation (e.g. removing a suffix, etc.)

Metadata fields
  • Which metadata fields should be indexed

  • Their source (content metadata tags, or external metadata)

  • Their position in the result display

  • Minor content transformation for display

Content snippet
  • Source (static metadata field or query biased summary)

  • Length (default is 250 characters)

  • Minor content transformation (e.g. removing the http:// prefix, etc.)

Shortlist toggle
  • Removal of the shortlist toggle (disabled shortlist feature)

Last visited label
  • Removal of the label

  • Presence of thumbnail

  • Thumbnail source (preview, page metadata, or page content)



The pagination allows the user to navigate multiple pages of results, either by accessing a specific page number <1> or using the previous / next links <2> to browse.

Configuration options

No configuration options at this time.

No results message

zero results page

This message is displayed when the search didn’t return any result.

Configuration options

  • Content of the no results message

Related Searches allow the user to rapidly discover all topics related to their search terms.

related searches

The related searches panel is divided in 3 columns showing related items to the user search terms:

  • By type

  • By topics

  • By site

If more than 8 suggestions are made, a more…​ link allow to expand the list.

By clicking on a related topic a new search is triggered for the specific topic.

Configuration options