Search Experience in SharePoint Online

Published: Aug 18, 2020

Search experience is the most importance features for any organization as it helps users to access and find the content from sites. SharePoint is providing two different search experience i.e. classic and modern search experience. Each organization may be confused to select between classic and modern search experience which is best suitable for their organization users. The same search index is used by both the search experiences to display the search results.

Table of Content

  1. Classic Search Experience
  2. Modern Search Experience
  3. Conclusion

In this article our SharePoint Consultants will discuss little bit deeper on both the search experiences which will give an idea to select a search experience for one’s organization.

SharePoint offers both a modern and classic search experiences. Modern search experience in the SharePoint online also known as Microsoft Search.

Classic and Modern Search Experience are turned on by default. Search administrator cannot turn on/off the search experience. A search experience is depending on from where user is searching the contents. For example, users get classic search experience if he/she is accessing the content from publishing site, classic team site and search center.

Classic Search Experience

Users gets classic search experience in SharePoint on-premise and Office 365 both.

Know More About Migrating to SharePoint Online from SharePoint On-Premise

In Office 365/SharePoint Online, users get classic search experience on the following type of sites:

  1. Publishing sites
  2. Classic team sites
  3. Search Center

Search Administrator can change/manage classic search experience from SharePoint Admin Center. Search Admin can manage search schema, manage search directory, query suggestion settings, manage result source, query rules etc. from search administrator page.

User interface can be customized for the classic search experience result as per the requirement.

  • Classic search provides “controlled” search experience so all users will find a same result for the same words.
  • Classic search provides facility to change user interface using display template.
  • It provides an option to add more refiner to get more precise search results based on the selected refiners/filters
  • Search Admin can bind the search scope to search the content from specific site collection, sites, lists/libraries etc.
  • It also provisions the Search Admin to define “promoted results” for searching the important content.

Please find the below screenshot of classic user interface experience for end-user.

Classic user Interface

Modern Search Experience

User gets modern search experience in SharePoint Online only. It’s more about personalized search experience. In Office 365/SharePoint Online, users get modern search on the following type of sites.

  1. SharePoint home page
  2. Hub sites
  3. Modern Team sites
  4. Communication sites

Modern search text box is visible on top header of the SharePoint. Microsoft search can be managed through Microsoft 365 admin center, but the search admin cannot customize modern search experience UI. It’s mobile friendly. Exploring search results without leaving search. It provides great user experience without any configuration by search administrator.

Modern search always uses the default result source to search the contents from sites and different results are displaying for individual user based on keywords and their activity in SharePoint Sites. Before start typing in the search box, one can also see the relevant results based on one’s previous activity and trending content in Microsoft 365.

Know more about Difference between SharePoint Modern Team Site vs. Communication Site

User can explore the search result to see more details about people, files one has found or refine the search result based on default filters such as last modified time, file types, etc.

If user makes any changes in search schema then modern search experience is also affected by that because both the search experiences use same index. Security trimming is already in place in the modern search experience.

Changing sort order and building refiners based on metadata is not supported in modern search experience. So, the following search schema settings do not affect the modern search experience.

  1. Sortable
  2. Refinable
  3. Company name extraction

Microsoft/Modern Search experience uses bookmarks to fetch the important content like the promoted results of the Classic Search experience. If any promoted results configured at Organizational level and users searches something then promoted results can be seen by the user on all tab in result pages. If both a promoted result and bookmark are defined for the same content, only the bookmark will appear on the All tab.

Please find the below screenshot for end user modern user interface experience.

Modern user Interface


Bases on the site template finalized for one’s organization in SharePoint Online, one can experience the searched content in classic or modern use interface. If there is requirement of the customization then one can go for the Classic Search experience and select the site templates accordingly. Microsoft/Modern Search experience provides the best user experience without any customization so, one can promote his/her team to start using modern site.

More blog on SharePoint Online
Introduction of Site Design and Site Script in SharePoint Online
MS Team and SharePoint Online Site Association via the MS Team tab


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