Improving Navigation and Search with Channel Groups, Application Mappings & Scoped Searches

Solving Navigation and Search is largely a challenge with understanding context.  The more contextual information we have the easier it is to provide the best results.  But who wants to spend time defining context each time you begin your journey?  When you search Google you’re presented with a simple search box.  There’s no context to know what you might be looking for when you arrive.  Every time you visit Google you start your search from scratch.  One way to improve Navigation and Search results is by providing predefined constraints.

We recently introduced a new feature called “Channel Groups” that provides another layer of contextual information building on our Progressive Navigation & Search philosophy.  When you experience the AVAIL interface you’ll see that we’ve combined several features that carefully blend the ability to both visually Navigate across large volumes of content combined with Text and Tag-based Search.  Our goal is to provide you with multiple means of arriving at the information you need.  I talked about the importance of context in this webinar.  And as you can see from the diagram below, there are additional features we’re working on (Workspaces and Archive) that are designed to provide additional Contextual Vectors on our quest for the perfect solution.

Contextual Rings

AVAIL's core features form "Contextual Rings" around your content


Introducing Channel Groups 

AVAIL is extending its search capabilities beyond the AVAIL Desktop application.  This allows AVAIL to provide search functionality directly from applications such as Revit, AutoCAD, Rhino, SketchUp and more.  Extending search capabilities beyond the AVAIL Desktop interface presents an opportunity to improve search results based on where your search originates.  As an example, if you are working in an application like Rhino and perform a search in AVAIL you would like to see search results that are relevant to Rhino.  Same for Revit.  A search originating from Revit would benefit if the search results contained content relevant to Revit and not marketing materials or SketchUp models.  Makes sense, but how can we accomplish this?

Currently there are two modes of Search within AVAIL.  You can perform what we refer to as a “Global Search” which searches across all Channels and content you have access to in AVAIL.  The other is “Channel Search” where you are searching within a single Channel of AVAIL.  If you’re searching from an external application like Revit the challenge becomes how to best “scope” the search to focus on relevant content when more than one Channel contains relevant information.  Enter Channel Groups!

Channel Groups provide a means of organizing Channels into logical groupings.  These groupings are completely customizable and Channels can exist in more than one Channel Group.  Logical groupings may be specific to an application such as Revit or Rhino or you may choose to group Channels related to topics such as Photos or Marketing assets.  Furthering an important mantra of AVAIL, Channel Groups are completely customizable to fit a firm's needs and preferences.

Once Channel Groups have been created and Channels assigned you will find new Channel Groups Filters on the Home screen of AVAIL just above the display of the individual Channels.  Selecting a Channel Group Filter will update the Home screen to display only the Channels associated with each respective Channel Group.  The Channel Group Filters make it easier to navigate a growing number of Channels in AVAIL.

Channel Groups_1

Channel Groups appear on the Home screen allowing you to filter channels


Search From External Applications

Back to searching from external applications such as Revit.  The Channel Groups feature provides a means of “Mapping” Channel Groups to specific applications.  A new Manage Application Mappings interface allows each firm to prioritize search results based on Channel Groups.  Better yet, the application mappings are on a per application version basis.  This means you can target different content from a search originating in Revit 2023 as you would from Revit 2021.  The Manage Application Mappings interface also allows you to order multiple target Channel Groups per application that will act to “boost” search results based on Channel Group order.  As an example, if you’d prefer to have an internal Revit library prioritized over the Revit Out-of-the-Box libraries you can do so via Channel Groups.

Application Mappings provide targeted (and weighted) search from applications such as Revit

When a search originates from an application such as Revit the results are presented in the AVAIL Desktop interface.  The search results will reflect preferences designated by the Application Mappings.  The Channels containing the resulting content from the search are displayed across the top of the Home screen grouped by respective Channel Groups and prioritized by the Application Mapping(s).  Content items outside of the scoped Application Mapping(s) and their respective Channel Groups are also displayed secondarily to “boosted” results.

The development of the Channel Groups feature became part of an overall improvement to Search within AVAIL and extension of our Progressive Navigation & Search strategy.  From the AVAIL Desktop application you can now choose to scope a search originating on the Home screen that previously would have initiated a Global Search across all Channels in AVAIL.  As you begin typing in the Search Bar you will be presented with options to focus a Search on an existing Channel Group, Channel or Application Mapping.

The addition to Channel Groups, Application Mappings and improved scoping of searches provides exciting new ways to help users find the content and information they need faster.


Analytics, AI and The Future of Navigation & Search

We believe the future of Navigation and Search is to avoid it.  If we knew what you wanted we could simply bring it to you.  Today we base that knowledge on responding to what you type into the Search box or the path you take as you Navigate through large volumes of content.  Each of those actions provides clues as to the information you want or need next.

The next generation of information solutions will function largely without you doing anything.  The context in which you operate will provide the clues to provide you with the information you need, when you need it.  Context may include what project type you’re working on, the specific phase or area of the project, what was used on previous projects, what’s available and when it was created.

We’re working on AVAIL Analytics 2.0 that will begin providing contextual analytics within the AVAIL Desktop interface.  What was searched, when, by whom and in what project context.  Each of these transactions, combined with the Application Mappings, Channel Groups, Channels, Key Cards and Tags provides the contextual clues needed to proactively begin bringing you the information you need, when you need it.

Randall Stevens


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