A Powerful Searching Tool for CityU Web

by Wilson Wong

There is tons of information over the internet. It is important to provide a powerful searching tool for visitors to search for the information they want when they come across our websites. There are over 330,000 web pages in CityU. Without a good search engine, it is really hard for a visitor to find a piece of information among these pages. Even for a CityU community member, it is also not an easy task. In view of this, the Computing Services Centre (CSC) incorporated the Google Public Search to the CityU homepage in 2005 (which later updated to Google Custom Search in 2007) in order to provide a state-of-the-art search engine for both CityU and non-CityU community members to search for their desired information. Unfortunately, the Google Custom Search has its limitation. Firstly, it usually takes days or even weeks for the changes of a website to become searchable. Secondly, all the advanced functions, such as Google Advanced Search and search suggestion, are missing. And finally, it does not support searching on password protected pages meaning that CityU community members cannot locate information via the Google Custom Search such as administrative notes and regulations, which is protected for access from staff, students or special groups.

In late summer of 2009, Google has finally made their enterprise solution, Google Search Appliance (GSA), marketable in Hong Kong. The CSC worked closely with one of the GSA’s distributors and implemented the GSA for the entire CityU web (cityu.edu.hk) successfully.

With the GSA, any updates on websites will be reflected in the search results within hours. It also provides “Narrow your search”, “Related Queries”, the Google standard “Advanced Search”, and intranet search, which Google Custom Search lacks.

Narrow Your Search. The “Narrow your search” feature helps you to narrow/refine your search by suggesting a list of search phrases. For example, when you search for the keyword “admission”, the GSA will suggest you to refine your search by using phrases like “special admissions scheme”, “student athletes admission scheme”, “apply admission”, etc. These suggested search phrases are extracted from the search results heuristically.

Related Queries. The “Related Queries”, on the other hand, will provide a list of pre-defined related queries that match your search phrase. For example, when you search for the keyword “clinic”, the GSA will search the predefined database for “clinic”, and suggest you to try also “Health Centre”, “Young Chung Yee Health Centre”, etc. In this regard, visitors can locate even the homepage of “Young Chung Yee Health Centre” which does not contain the word “clinic”. This will greatly increase the chance for visitors to locate the information they want. (Note: departments are invited to provide the CSC with such related queries to enrich the search database.)

Advanced Search. The “Advanced Search” provides options for searching pages in a specific language, file format, location, and so on. It can also search for pages which contain links to a specific URL.

Intranet Search. Upon authentication, students may search information on protected web pages for students on central web servers (namely www.cityu.edu.hk and www6.cityu.edu.hk) while staff may search protected web pages for both staff and students. Likewise, staff with membership access will be able to search protected web pages for members as well as protected pages for staff and students. This facilitates the role-based looking up of internal information e.g. administrative notes, regulations, etc.

The GSA was deployed in the CityU homepage on 16 August 2010; while a new look on the user interface shown below was deployed on 1 December 2010.


Besides CityU Web Search, the GSA can also be implemented as a local search tool on departmental homepages, like the one on the CSC homepage, to facilitate ease of information access. Interested departments may contact the CSC help desk for details.

Furthermore, as the GSA is a powerful searching tool, sensitive information, if any, can easily be found through its “Advanced Search” feature. Departments, staff and students are reminded to review their departmental/project/personal homepages and remove sensitive information in all kinds of file formats as quickly as possible.