Guides / Building Search UI / Resources / UI and UX patterns

Overview

OpenSearch is web standard that makes browsers aware of an underlying search engine on a website. By implementing this, browsers will let the users search into your web application directly from the URL bar (in Chrome for example) or in a dedicated search input (like in Firefox).

Implementing OpenSearch with Algolia and InstantSearch.js is just a few steps away, let’s see how this is done.

How OpenSearch works

The OpenSearch standard defines the way the webpage should tell the browser how to interact with the search engine. This interaction is based on a URL pattern that is defined with an XML file. This XML file should be referenced in the <head> of the webpage using a link tag.

Since the URL will serve as the way for the browser to provide information to the webapp, the first step is to enable the URL synchronization.

Define the search engine description

The search engine is described using an XML file following the OpenSearch specification. For now, we’ll focus on making it work for our example.

Let’s first create the file, following this template:

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<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/" xmlns:moz="http://www.mozilla.org/2006/browser/search/">
  <ShortName>shortName</ShortName>
  <Description>description</Description>
  <Url type="text/html" method="get" template="https://mysite.com?q={searchTerms}"/>
  <InputEncoding>UTF-8</InputEncoding>
  <Image height="32" width="32"type="image/png">linkToImage</Image>
</OpenSearchDescription>

Note that you can’t add the xml declaration (<?xml version="1.0"?>) because otherwise it won’t show up in Firefox.

Let’s review the important parts of this file that you should update to fit your website:

  • <ShortName>: this is the name of your app / website search. It should be less than 17 characters

  • <Description>: this is a human readable description of your app / website search engine.

  • template in <Url>: this is pattern that the browser will follow to create the URL to your website / app search engine.

  • <Image>: linkToImage is the URL to a PNG image that represents your website, the favicon should be fine.

Please note that the OpenSearch specification states that the XML file should be served with the Content-Type: application/opensearchdescription+xml header. How you can set this header depends on your stack.

In order for the browser to be aware of the search engine, we need to declare it in the webpage. We can do this by adding a <link> in the <head>, like so:

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<link rel="search" href="/opensearch.xml" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" title="Name of the search">

It’s as simple as that. From now on, every user going through the website will have the search engine registered automatically. When using Chrome, the user will then be able to search directly on your website by taping the domain name and then [tab]. When using Firefox, they can even add it manually in a dedicated search box in the browser.

Be careful, the cache of the XML file is long and updating it requires to remove it from settings, which can be tedious depending on the browser.

Going further

So now you know the basics of OpenSearch and the integration with InstantSearch.js. To go further, we suggest you check out the OpenSearch specification – and the reference from browser and search engines such as Yandex, Mozilla, Google and Apple.

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