On-site search is a very useful tool in helping visitors find exactly what they’re looking for on your website. Of course your website layout should be simple and intuitive. But having a well-optimized search function will reduce user frustration and give you valuable insight into what users expect from your website.
Here are some tried-and-true strategies to maximize the benefit of your on-site search function–both for your users and for you.
Optimize the search bar
Having a hard-to-find or hard-to-see search function is not much better than having the function at all. Therefore, paying attention to the actual look and feel of your search bar is worth the time and effort.
Depending on your business, you will choose how prominently to feature your search bar. Websites like ebay and Amazon have prominently-featured search bars since often their websites are the beginning of a user’s search for items.
Many other websites choose to feature articles, services, products, and promotions much more prominently and relegate the search function to a corner spot. This tactic is not, in itself, poor. As web-savvy users, we’re used to finding the search function at the top, and usually toward the right side. If search is a secondary feature of your website, you certainly don’t want an obnoxious search bar distracting from the content on your home page.
Rather, you need to figure out what is best for your website and find the optimal design. A/B test colors, sizes, location, and even sample text. There is no one perfect solution for all websites. For example, the search bar on Delta stands out despite it’s small size, yet doesn’t distract from the website:
On the other hand, the search bar on the Moz blog is arguably difficult to find quickly. However, I cannot believe that Moz hasn’t optimized their search bar and therefore the low-key design must work well for them:
Implement on-site search and optimize your search bar.
Optimize the search process
As is the goal with any UI and UX design, optimizing the search process will increase on-site search conversions.
Naturally the search process needs to be functional and flexible. Here are six UI and UX suggestions to help you better serve the users and their searches:
1. Make the search box big enough to fit most queries.
Generally the search box will suit most searches. However, if you have long or technical names for your products or services, you will want your search box to be long enough to fit most searches. This will help users catch spelling errors and other mistakes that might hinder their search.
Realizing that the word “search” is at the end or beginning of what you typed is highly frustrating. I know, first-world problems, but your goal in UX design is to remove any frustrations and hindrances to the customer path as possible. Include the script to remove the prompt in your search bar when a user clicks on the search. It’s simple. Just do it.
3. Autofill the search results
Not only does an autofill feature save time, it helps users find what they’re looking for if they are unsure exactly what the product is called. For ecommerce and non-ecommerce websites, an autofill feature helps users from ending up at a “no results were found” page, which is always the goal.
You can also use an autofill feature to push searchers to certain products, services, or content pieces. This can help you promote new additions to your website, spark a viral flame, or refresh or move old products and content. This alone is worth the effort of adding an autofill feature.
4. Semantic search
One key strategy to avoid the dreaded “no results found” page is to use semantic search. Don’t make your visitors search for exactly what you offer. Google has spoiled us by giving us results we seek even when our search terms are poorly-worded. You need to do cater to that lazy search method.
5. Related results for missing products and services
Another strategy to avoid the frustration of seeing the “no results found” page is to show related results. If your semantic search fails–and it will from time to time–at least give the searcher something to look at. A blank page is a UX faux pas.
No everyone will be fluent enough in what you offer to find exactly what they’re looking for. And you may not have what some are looking for. So help reduce the frustration and offer suggestions of other products or pages that might interest them.
6. Create what’s missing
Yet another way to sidestep not having what people search for is to create what’s missing. If you have repeated searches for certain products, services, or information, start carrying the product, begin providing the service, or create the article or video that answers the question.
In no other way can you as efficiently discover exactly what people want from your website. Don’t let the vital advantage of on-site search go to waste.
For more help in improving your website experience, check out the resources at BoostUniversity!