What is a good autocomplete?

Too often clients add autocomplete as an requirement without much thought. And as an result it is actually making the user experience worse. Instead of helping the users it confuses them.

The first rule when designing autocomplete is: the suggestions must be relevant for many!

Otherwise don’t make any suggestions at all, since it’s just noise that disturbs most of the users searching. Therefore it is essential to apply some kind of wisdom of the crowd or business intelligence to your suggestions.

This can be done in many different ways. For example you can suggest popular searches used by many and that actually worked. How to define what actually works is really up to you. It could be that many visitors clicked in the search result page. Or that they added a product into the shopping cart. Or campaigns and similar. Visitors Voice API for example uses popular search terms that actually led to a click in the search result list.

Our second rule is to make it obvious that the autocomplete is just showing suggestions and not the full search result list. The visitors must understand that if they continoue with the actual search, they would get the full search result list.

Also don’t forget to make your autocomplete mobile friendly. Displaying to many options doesn’t make sense since it is not really helping the users more than if they actually finished the search. A great autocomplete is only focusing on the essentials. And displaying too many options is only making it more difficult on smaller devices.

We believe Apple for example has an great autocomplete, displaying both the most popular searches and the recommended results. Another example is IMDB.

So don’t forget that autocomplete is part of the overall user experience and bad autocomplete has a negative effect on your visitors loyalty towards your brand.

Succeesful site search projects

Learn what it takes to be succeesful with your site search.

In this guide we share our experience from more than 100 site search projects.

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