Yes, On-Site Search Really Does Matter

by | February 26th, 2014

On-site search is one aspect of web development that some organizations use to their advantage. Are you one of them?

On-Site Search is Good for Site Owners

There is a strong internal use case for having solid on-site search. Analyzing site search analytics can provide organizations without obvious Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) insight into what users need to do on the website to consider the visit a success. If search is used very heavily, it might even indicate a need to reassess your site structure.

However, good customer service is the best reason for including strong on-site search on your website. Helping users quickly and easily find what they are looking for is something obvious for salespeople to do in a brick and mortar. But sometimes the online version of this gets overlooked. Here are some simple ways to ensure an on-site search is a positive user experience.

Site Search Usability

Even if you don’t get super complex with your site’s search functionality, there are some best practices that will assist site visitors:

Consider the location of your search box.

Some experts will say to place it at the top left of a page, because that is where users will expect it.

But there are some sites successfully using it in other locations:

Label the search box

This is surprisingly helpful to some users who do not recognize other prompts or symbols.

Recent usability studies have shown that not all users immediately recognize the magnifying glass as a search prompt.

Repeat search terms

Including the search terms on the results page can ensure good user experience.

Showing the term the user typed in helps users know if they’ve misspelled a search term or if there are really no results for their query.

Be helpful

Offer alternate searches if no results are found.

This feature can also help users recognize misspellings in their search queries. It also leaves the user with some options instead of clicking the back button or trying a brand new search term.

Other On-Site Search Successes

We wrote recently about how McMaster-Carr is doing a great job with site search, but they are not alone. Other sites are doing search successfully include:

  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • LA Times

Which site searches do you like? Share your best examples in the comments section.