Does the WordPress Codex have the World's Worst Search?

When I’m developing a new WordPress theme, I inevitably end up hitting the WordPress Codex fairly regularly. Unfortunately, the more I get drawn into it looking for answers, the more it frustrates me. The problem isn’t necessarily the content, which does vary wildly depending on the page you’re looking at, it’s more about the navigation and search functionality.

WordPress Codex

At this point, it’s important to note that I primarily go to the WordPress Codex as a theme developer, so as far as I’m concerned, its success will be judged on how well it helps me find the information I’m looking for. This is mostly template tags. Essentially, I approach the codex in one of two ways. I’m either trying to do something so I’m looking for a template tag to do it – or – I have a template tag and I want to tweak it’s implementation (i.e. I want to see what parameters I can pass to it, and what the outcome will be). Two different approaches, but the outcome should be the same. I should end up at the page relating to the template tag. Unfortunately, finding content in the Codex is hit and miss, to say the least.

WordPress Codex Search ResultsLet’s use an example. I’ve been exploring the use of post excerpts for category pages as a way to reduce duplicate content, something Google isn’t keen on by all accounts. I know the template tag for excerpts, “the_excerpt“, but I wanted to see what else I could do with it. So I searched for “the_excerpt”. You would expect, quite reasonably, that the template tag page for the_excerpt would come out on top. it doesn’t. In fact, it doesn’t even appear on the first page. This isn’t an isolated problem either. A search for a whole host of template tags simply doesn’t return the expected results.

So that covers searching for a specific template tag. But what if you want to figure out how to do something? Well a search for “display post excerpt” turns up similarly useless results. So the WordPress Codex search fails, fairly miserably, at both tasks I would use it for. The strange thing about this is that WordPress outsourced the search functionality to Yahoo. They proudly display this fact at the bottom of the useless search results.

Work Arounds

It’s unfortunate that the search is so bad you have to use work arounds, but unfortunately that’s the situation I find myself in. By far the quickest way to find the page relating to a template tag, such as the_excerpt, is to go to the template tags page. From here you can find pretty much all the template tags you need. The other work around is to use Google and the “site” operator. Just prepend your query with “” and Google will search just the WordPress Codex. While even this can be a bit hit and miss, it much more accurate and useful than the default Yahoo search.

Does anyone else have this problem?