I suck at search, you suck at search, everyone sucks at search. Accept it. Your sucky search skills are killing usability on the web! But it’s ok, there are people who don’t suck, and they’ll let you drink the kool-aid for free.
I recently updated this site to use Google Custom Search. It took me 5 minutes to setup, and now anyone can search for everthing that rocks on this site. I was so impressed I recommended it for a client project, now their search doesn’t suck either.
It actually gives you quite a bit of style control. You’ve got full CSS control over the search box (minus a little bit of Google branding), plus color/font choices on the results page, which you can display in site. Sure the Google results page isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve seen, but it’s usable, fast, and familiar to your audience (no matter who they are.)
If you need more control, you can upgrade to their very reasonable paid service. It’ll take years for the cost of the basic plan to reach what it’ll cost you to pay a developer to build you a bad search system. And by that time you’ll probably be two site revisions down the road and still have crappy search. So go for it, admit that you suck, and give your users something they can actually use. I’ll be doing it whenever I can.
Now if we could just stop people from using IE.