To search for products requires a different interface than to search for web pages or documents. If users are experts on the subject or novices, also comes into play. Or if they are looking for specific answers to specific questions or want to explore a subject area.
A search function is judged by how easy it is to use and how effective it is. Everything else is of secondary importance. We always recommend that you show as little other content as possible in connection with the search result list. And if you can you give search result lists a full page width, it is only positive.
The search input field
Consider the following when it comes to the search input field:
- Where the search input field will be placed
- What the search input field will look like
- What will be in the search input field
The more important the search function is for your users, the more in focus it should be. The wider you make it, the more words users type into it. If you want them to be more specific in their searches, make the search input field wide. A text in the search input field can help visitors to use it, for example you can explain what you are looking for within the data sources.
Inspiration for search input fields:
The purpose of autocomplete is to help visitors to spell correctly and formulate relevant searches. Consider the following:
- Will headlines, common keywords be displayed or other things suggested?
- Will a search be performed when users click on a suggestion or will they receive a hit directly?
- Will different categories of suggestion be displayed?
- Will the suggestions appear immediately after a letter is typed or are many needed?
- How can it be clear to users that the suggestions shown are only a limited selection of all suggestions?
Remember that the function can actually impair the search experience for users instead of vice versa.
- It must be made clear when the suggestions are not comprehensive and that they will receive more if they do the actual search. Otherwise, some users will believe that the answers are not unnecessary.
- If the suggestions are perceived as irrelevant they distract the users unnecessarily. Please make use of search and click statistics to prioritize the suggestions that are relevant to many.
Inspiration for good autocomplete:
To show common searches for users gives a sense of what is happening right now. And when you show them in the search input field users are inspired to use the search function.
A few questions:
- Will search words be clickable?
- How often will search words be replaced?
- Will different search words be displayed depending on which page is shown?
Having clickable keywords for pages leading to a keyword search provides more opportunities to group content than traditional navigation allows. Note that rigor in the keywords used is required for this to work. Read more about taxonomy.
Inspiration for keywords:
Search results page
Think about the kind of search results list fits your search:
- Simple search results page
- Segmented search results page
- Structured search results page
For most work a single page of search results proves excellent, but in rare cases, a segmented search results page is recommended. A structured search results page is good when you want to compare search results with each other, for example, for a timetable or price list.
Some things to consider:
- How will the search results be presented with title, description and other medatadata?
- Will the users understand which category or subject area each search result belongs to?
- What type of search result is it?
We have seen how seemingly small adjustments have led to significant improvements in conversion clicks in the search result list. Clear headings and descriptions are the most important things.
To show breadcrumbs or which subject category the search result belongs to also helps users to understand if the search result is correct.
Some things to consider:
- Where should you place any facets in relation to the search results list?
- What facets will you see at the top?
Our recommendation is to add facets to the left of the search results list if you consider it likely that facets will be used to find the right place. This often refers to e-commerce. For many sites, it is sufficient to put them on the right.
Did you mean
If the search does not give any search result or if it is missing a common rescan that works well, you can ask if the user really meant something else. Some search engines have support for misspellings and suggest the correct spelling version of the search phrase. Try to only give suggestions that actually lead to some search results in the search results page.
We advise our customers not to put “Best bets” outside (and certainly not above) the search results list, because users do not look there. Instead, our experience has shown that the content you want to recommend should end up at the top of the search result list users have used.
Related search terms
Another way to do this is to show what ordinary rescanning users are doing on the specific search. With the Visitors Voice API it is easy to retrieve common rescans for a keyword with RefinementsToSearchTerm.
We recommend that if the user does not receive a search result on his search word you should offer a contact field or a link to customer service. The user should always have a next step to take.
Other support functions
Which sorting features, and where you can put them, how pagination will work and whether to offer an advanced search also requires some thought. An advanced search can be appreciated by those who have good subject knowledge and where facets are not good enough, but ordinary search users use it very rarely.