Search Improvement Army MWR

Search Improvement Army MWR

Developed by PortlandLabs
Project URL U.S. Army MWR


The U.S. Army Family and MWR websites encountered a significant challenge regarding their on-site search functionality. Despite a substantial user base, the search feature's effectiveness was in question. Most people who use this search tool aren't finding what they're looking for. We know this because 84 out of every 100 people leave the website quickly after trying to search for something. This is what we call a 'bounce rate.' Think of it as someone walking into a real library, asking the librarian a question, and then walking out immediately because they didn't get the help they needed.


Users on garrison sites struggled to access critical and comprehensive information from the HQ site, while searches on the HQ site were consistently cluttered with garrison-specific content. This overlap not only diluted the relevance of search results but also buried crucial HQ information.

The prevalent use of military jargon and acronyms formed additional barriers to effective information retrieval, leading to a frustrating user experience and the potential loss of valuable engagement opportunities. Compounding these challenges was the system's inability to customize search results for commonly searched terms, such as "Disney." This lack of control over search outcomes likely resulted in missed opportunities to direct users to the most relevant and beneficial content, possibly affecting both user satisfaction and revenue generation.


After examining traffic patterns and the existing solution, the following key points were identified:

  • Garrison sites did not always contain standard content from the HQ site.
  • HQ search was saturated with garrison content, lacking prioritization for HQ-specific content.
  • Difficulty in navigating synonyms and acronyms, leading to missed content.
  • Lack of control for specific search terms.

To address these challenges, the following features were implemented:

  • Garrison site searches were enhanced to include results from the HQ site, with an option to disable HQ results if desired.
  • Search results on the HQ site were adjusted to prioritize HQ content before showing garrison results.
  • AI technology was employed to build lists of synonyms for common topics and acronyms improving the relevance of search results.
  • A new interface was created for HQ administrators to link specific search terms to pin to particular search queries, ensuring that the most relevant content is displayed prominently for popular keywords.


Figure 1: Evolution of User Engagement Rate Before and After Implementing Enhanced Search Capabilities

Engagement Rate After New SearchThe implementation of these solutions led to a significant improvement in the search experience on the US Army MWR websites. Users were able to access more relevant and comprehensive content, leading to increased satisfaction and engagement. The use of AI for synonym and acronym generation and the ability to create specific search terms to results greatly enhanced the accuracy and usefulness of the search function. 


Decrease of repeat searches
The average bounce rate after a user makes a search
Engagement Rates increase