A Grade Automotive Network

Super charging the search capabilities with Algolia + Google Maps

Project overview

The VACC built the A Grade Automotive Network (AGAN) to help people find a qualified A Grade mechanic. The issue was the built-in search functionality that came with the DNN Articles module that was used. It was too basic for the needs of the VACC.

Furthermore, it was looking for exact text matches. For example, if the article contained the text 'Mechanic Ringwood' and the user searched for 'Mechanic Ringwood', it would return a result. However, if you searched for 'Ringwood Mechanic', it would fail. Intuitive IT proposed a solution that would resolve these issues and provide fast and accurate search results.

Algolia integration

Our first need was to use a search-as-service provider. Our provider of choice is Algolia. We would provide the data to Algolia, configure the requirements and then pass all queries to it. Algolia would then decide which results were the most relevant and return them to us, and we'd display them to the visitor.

We initially tried Google's Custom Search provider but discovered Algolia was more transparent and configurable and in the end, provided much better results.

We also built a scheduled task to regularly send data to Algolia, keeping the search data relevant and in-sync.

Search algorithm

Algolia is a big part of the solution, but there were requirements laid out by the VACC that needed custom coding. For example, the searches needed to be based around a location, if a suburb/town is provided in the search results. So when the query is 'mechanic South Melbourne' we determine that South Melbourne is a location.

We extract that from the query and instead ask Algolia to search for 'mechanic' around the longitude and latitude around the centre of South Melbourne.

In addition, we wanted to make sure that we limit the search results to only the most relevant so we search in ever increasing concentric circles until we have enough relevant results. The size of these circles grows at different rates depending if we're in metro or regional areas.

Finally, we plot the results on a Google Map, using their API and display the results in a list format too.

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