Best practices to provide the most effective search experience
Best practices to provide the most effective search experience
MobyteLab News • Jan 1, 2018
Search is like a conversation between the user and system: the user asks for their information need, and the system responses it with a set of results. You may not know that the search experience is are the key to the conversation rate of a website.
Searching has naturally become a habit for web users. In fact, on some websites, the search box is often the most frequently used element. Think of Youtube. Most of the time, people don’t navigate through the menu to find a video, they search. Moreover, using a search tool is the lifeline to mastering content-heavy websites. It is. Imagine buying and selling websites like Amazon or eBay, it would be a real challenge for users to go through all the categories to find their wanted items. On the other hand, if the content on a website is not well-organized, an efficient search tool is not only helpful but crucial, even for basic website navigation. From a usability point of view, users use the search function as the first option when looking for specific information on a website.
To provide the best search experience, you need to optimize the search box and the search results page. In this article, we would like to share 10 practices that will help you improve the search experience on your site.
1. Keep the current search term after user hit ‘Search button’
In case of users still can’t find the best result for their current query yet, they might want to search again with a slight change in the search term. To make it more convenient for their experience, just keep the current search term in the search box so they don’t have to re-type the whole query everytime they want to search again.
2. Effectively use auto suggest
Auto-suggest is the feature that the user find the most useful and satisfying. It not only helps the users to save time typing but sometimes also help them fill the query if they can’t think of all the keywords properly. Some helpful functions include recognition of root words, predictive text etc.
Using auto-suggest in the search box is common now, but be considerate, ineffective auto suggestions can deliver an annoying search experience.Here are some good examples of implementing
Here are some good examples of implementing the auto-suggest function:
And here are some bad ones:
A higher level of auto-suggest is autocorrect. If the user enters a wrong word (it could be mistyping or misspelling), the search box can suggest the corrected one.
But you can speed up the process by showing the results for the ‘autocorrected’ terms instead of the wrong one. This also helps the user to remove the step of re-typing and researching, as well as removing the frustration when the user receives no results and gives them a more realistic feeling of a conversation.
4. Provide and prioritize search results properly
The search results page can make or break a website’s search experience. It’s the primary importance to return accurate results to users, otherwise, they will not only trust the search tool but also the website.
Users typically make very quick judgments about a website’s value based on the quality of the one or two sets of search results. So the first results page is gold. You should find a useful way to prioritize results so that all the most important hits appear on the first page.
It is also recommended to show the number of search results available so that users can decide how long they want to spend looking through the results pages.
5. Offer sort and filter options
Users might become overwhelmed when there are too many irrelevant results. You try your best to prioritize the search results but not in every case it matches the users’ needs. To solve that problem, you can provide them with sort and filtering options so that they can narrow and organize the results that are most relevant to their search. Sort & Filter options can help users find what they want more easily, which otherwise requires extensive and excessive scrolling or pagination.
If your search requires a lot of filters, then enable users to select multiple options.
6. Provide search history
Sometimes when users want to search for the same or similar term they have already searched for, they need to recall their memory to find the relevant keywords. Let’s give them a hand by storing and showing recent searches so that the users can save time and effort the next time they search for the similar items. It would be the best to present less than 10 terms (avoid a scrollbar) so the information doesn’t become overwhelming.
7. Choose proper page layout
Different kinds of content require different layouts to ensure they are best presented. The grid view makes the most sense for displaying pictures while detailed information is neater when shown in lists. For example, products that are more image-based than text-based had better go with a grid view, as customers make decisions by the appearance of the product.
Allow users to choose ‘list-view’ or ‘grid-view’ for search results. This gives your users the ability to choose how they view their results in a way preferable to them. When designing grid layout, pick the right size of images so that they are large enough to be recognizable, yet small enough to allow more products to be seen at a time.
8. Show search progress
Ideally, search results should be displayed immediately, but if it’s not possible — a progress indicator should be used as system feedback for users. You should give your users a clear indication of how long they need to wait.
If search takes too long you can use animation. Good animation can distract your visitors and make them ignore long searching times.
9. Avoid ‘no results’ page
Dropping a blank ‘no results” page can be a dead-end for the search experience. Especially if the user has tried a couple of times, it could be frustrating.
Instead of that, you can give users some motivation when there are no matching results for their search by suggesting alternatives for them.
For example, your results page can suggest items from the similar category:
…or provide results for search term without quotes:
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