Configuring search experiences

A Sitecore Search implementation involves creating experiences using pages and widgets in the Customer Engagement Console (CEC). When this configuration is complete, a developer can incorporate the necessary UI components into your website.

Although website visitors primarily interact with search widgets, a page is an important element of a search experience. A page in Sitecore Search is a container for one or more widgets where each widget contributes to the overall page experience. The URL or URL pattern associated with a page is part of the site context for its widgets.

There are two basic types of search experiences you can customize:

  • The preview search experience

  • The search results experience (also referred to as the full page search experience)

Preview search experience

Screenshot of a preview search experience.



Preview search widget

Typically configured to show on all pages of your website, the elements of a preview search widget include:

  • An input box.

  • Suggested search keywords.

  • Search results.

Search results experience

Screenshot of a search results experience.



Landing page

A page that is associated with a URL or a URL pattern and serves as a container for widgets. This is the page type that is used as the container for the search results widgets.

Search results widget

Typically occupying the full web page, the elements of a search results widget include:

  • An input box

  • Facets

  • Search results

You can customize these experiences based on your business needs.

The variation framework

Sitecore Search provides a variation framework for customization. Pages and widgets always have one variation that is referred to as the default variation. You can make changes to any variation of a widget or page, and schedule it to run indefinitely or between two dates.

When no variations are scheduled, the default variation is displayed with an Active status. To prevent display errors, you need to set one variation as default.


Using the variation framework, you can make and schedule changes. You can also run A/B tests on variations.

Default variation

Every widget or page has a default variation. The default variation is displayed when another variation is not scheduled to run. You can change the default variation at any time. Switching default variations is instantaneously visible to your visitors, unless another variation is scheduled.


A default variation does not have a schedule and has (Default) beside its name.

A default variation displays whenever there is no other variation scheduled, and stops displaying if another variation is made the default, or if a non-default variation is scheduled.

At the end of a variation's scheduled period, the default variation is displayed unless another variation is scheduled.

Variation status

The variation status of a page or widget describes whether it is available for your visitors. You have to publish changes to a page or widget variation if you want to display it to your visitors. (Default) is not a variation status. It identifies which variation behaves as the default variation.

The following table lists the different variation statuses:




Unpublished changes.


Not the default variation, published but not scheduled.


Not the default variation, published and scheduled.


Currently displayed on the page.


Not the default variation and past its scheduled period.


A default variation can only have the Draft and Active statuses.

All variations with unpublished changes have Draft status.

When you publish changes to a widget or page variation with Active status, the changes come into effect immediately.

It is best practice to use a variation instead of altering the global widget settings. Variations help to keep track of changes. You can schedule them. You can also preview your global widget variation in action.

To replace a widget variation with another, do one of the following:

  • Set the new widget variation as the default variation.

  • Schedule the new widget variation to run indefinitely.

Global widget

All widgets are based on the global widget that can have multiple widget variations as long as one of them is set as the default variation. Therefore, at runtime all widget variations are based on the global widget variation with an Active status.

You can edit the global widget in the CEC by clicking Global Resources and then Global Widget.

Similar to other widgets in the system, you can schedule a global widget variation and avoid altering the global widget itself. The following are some typical use cases for configuring a global widget variation:

  • For a given time period, you want to boost certain items in your content collection.

  • You want all widgets to behave in a particular way in certain site or visitor contexts.

  • You want all search result widgets to default to a particular type of sorting.

Example: Page and widget variations

Let's assume there is a page with two variations called PAGE_X and PAGE_Y with widgets A, B, and C. The following diagram shows the page variations and widget variations:

Diagram of how page and widget variations are consolidated at runtime.

Based on the status of every variation, the visitor sees the following:

  • Page variation PAGE_X showing widget variations A2 and B1.

  • Widget variation A2 because its status is Active.

  • Widget variation B1 because its status is Default and widget B does not have an active variation. It is by default considered Active.


The visibility of a variation depends on its variation status.

Do you have some feedback for us?

If you have suggestions for improving this article,