In this article we continue the series where we are reviewing Magento site search solutions. Good site search can be very useful tool for online store, especially one with extensive product catalogue. It can improve conversion and provide better user experience. In the previous article we’ve reviewed Magento Community Edition out-of-the-box search, which appeared to be not the best option. Today we have a look into one of the self-hosted alternatives – Sphinx Search Ultimate extension.
Sphinx Search Ultimate is based on popular open-source Sphinx search engine and supplied by Ukrainian vendor Mirasvit. As a sample website we’ve used demo store provided by Mirasvit. In our research we’ll follow the framework defined in the first post of the series.
General search quality of Sphinx Search Ultimate
Search relevance and ranking
Screenshot above shows search results for keyword “dress” with Sphinx Search Ultimate. It is quite an improvements in comparison with Magento default site search: products that are actually dresses are listed first, followed by the products where word “dress” is used somewhere in the description. It also shows categories and even product type in separate tabs. In addition it shows related searches and understand plural form – search for dresses returns the same results.
Understanding of typos and mixed word orders
Search for “fress” (instead of “dress”) gives me some strange results, so typo were not detected and understood, at least automatically in this case. On the other hand when I searched for “dreff” I was suggested correction, see screenshot below:
Mixed word order
Let’s try to search for “dress maxi” having in mind a product called “maxi dress”.
As you see the relevant product is listed and only it is listed, so here the result is very good.
Understanding of jargon and synonyms
Same with our previous research we will go to men’s fashion now and try to search for “trousers”.
The results are sorted in logical order – with “trousers” product first, but unfortunately here the system hasn’t understood that trousers=pants and didn’t show any pants.Search for ‘strides’ (Aussie slang word for trousers) also doesn’t bring any results. It is quite interesting, because according vendor’s description Sphinx Search Ultimate “supports synonyms (dictionary contains 60730 words)”. Maybe trousers-pants pair isn’t in the dictionary. I’ve also tried “jumper” as a synonym for “sweater’, but without success as well.
Looks like same with Magento CE default search Sphinx Search Ultimate doesn’t really understand abbreviations, it will find the products only as long as abbreviation is used in the attributes.
It is a bit better than with Magento default search while not perfect. Sphinx Search Ultimate doesn’t understand that quotes mean inches, but provide partial match results, so actual products with 2.5″ screen are displayed.
As a conclusion for this section I would state that Sphinx Search Ultimate extension for Magento eCommerce provides much better search quality than Magento default site search, first of all in terms of relevance and the scope of search. Unfortunately little extra features like synonyms don’t work very good.
Auto-complete and auto-suggest
Sphinx Search Ultimate comes with Search AutoComplete & Suggestions add-on (it isn’t included in the cheaper versions of the extension). It works quite good and shows the matching products, categories and even CMS pages in the search area. Products are coming with small product images that makes the choice easier for customers.
Search query pre-fill on search results page
Sphinx Search Ultimate supports this feature, so if you can easily modify your search query if required.
Faceted search is supported in Sphinx Search Ultimate as well, with added level of filtering on the top tab for types of the content.
Non-functional information about Sphinx Search Ultimate
The extension in the version we reviewed (Sphinx Search Ultimate) costs US$149 (plus extra $199 for Magento Enterprise). There is a cheaper version without auto-suggest and search spell correction included available for US $99 (Community Edition price)
Self-hosted – Sphinx Search Ultimate is a Magento extension, so it is placed on the server where you host your Magento store and doesn’t require subscription to external service. You can use the extension with built-in and external Sphinx Search, the latter option may be interesting for high-load websites as a part of optimisation process.
Ease of installation
Extension is quite easy to install, while some users required help from developers. According to reviews on Magento Connects such help was promptly provided.
Magento extension popularity
It is one of the most popular site search extension on Magento with 6863 Popularity Score at the time of this post written (31 August 2015).
Magento Connect user review score
Sphinx Search Ultimate has a raving 5 stars score on Magento Connect.
Last release of Magento extension
The last version # 2.3.2 was released 29 July 2014.
Company or individual behind the solution
Mirasvit is an Ukrainian company with head quarter in Kiev and office in US (California). It is a professional extension developer with couple dozens of other extensions in the portfolio in addition to Sphinx Search Ultimate.
Stores that use this solution
While Mirasvit website contains references to number of high profile website that use Sphinx search, we couldn’t find references to specific online stores that use Sphinx Search Ultimate extensions. We would love to list some of them if find such information.
We think that Sphinx Search Ultimate provides much better quality than default Magento Site Search and can be definitely considered as an affordable alternative for the stores that need better search, but can’t afford regular payment to cloud solution or just don’t want to be locked into additional external cloud vendor.
The extension has great Magento Connect ranking and supported by experienced and responsive developer, which are the pluses too.
There are some areas of improvements though, namely work with synonyms, jargon, abbreviation and special chars and work with typos.