Creative alternatives to the poor search feature conundrum (low budget or otherwise)

I previously mentioned that it's often better on today's Web to have no search capabilities at all than to provide weak search capabilities on a site.  I also cited the fact that in lieu of having an enterprise-level search facility myself, I've been forced to develop a variation on a theme to allow for effective search for my company's site.  Here's a little look at what I've been able to pull off.

My search tool uses a “split-screen page” displaying 3 IFRAMEs loading the following:

  1. An XML web service on a remote server I control returning keyword-driven search content (we tease specific keywords in our broadcasts and shoot back URLs to specific exhibits)
  2. A DataList containing an articles results page that uses FREETEXTTABLE to query our news database for stories (a “classical” search)
  3. Web-wide search results using the Google API for non-news-oriented related content on our site (press releases, bios, calendar, etc.), specific to our site for any pages outside of the scope of our news articles

Now, this is far from a technical achievement of landmark proportions, and the fact that a single page loads multiple IFRAMEs coming from different places on the Web - and utilizing two separate web service calls to remote servers - isn't exactly the fastest app ever written by man, but it works for us, and that's what important.  A user finds articles related to what they want, we hardwire to the user the topical, timely exhibits that we want them to see, and they also likely find something that may interest them they probably weren't after in the first place.  It's proved to be a win-win-win for us!

Now I can't take all the credit...I actually borrowed the page layout idea from the cool search feature ESPN.com provides.  I've also always thought AOL was genius for creating its “keyword“ feature, and I thought if I could implement that within the more mainstream environment of the World Wide Web, I could pull off something cool.

Have you seen any other sites that use alternative, creative or otherwise intriguing search functionality?

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