Why do you need to optimise your search and how to do it
Updated: Sep 21
Best Practices in Search Results
What is search?
In the computing world, the search is running a query on a database. Users input keywords that are found (or not) in the database and returned as search results.
Why investing in search is important for your business?
If users can’t find what they are looking for, they will go to your competitor.
An effective search helps businesses deliver a better user experience. When users find what they came for with ease, they buy it.
Good user experience also helps enhance brand perception. Users are more likely to return to your site. This means better customer retention and higher conversion rate which translates into higher sales.
In this article, we will be focusing on how to display search results.
Do you need a search for your platform?
E-commerce websites convert better with a search and users expect them to allow for that.
“In one case with a huge e-commerce retailer, the conversion rate of users was 43% higher than those who didn’t when they used the internal website search to find products.’’ Inbenta Team
Small websites usually don’t need a search. The navigation should be clear enough to guide the users in finding what they are looking for.
Top tips and best practices
Here’s a list of best practices with examples that you might need to consider when designing for search. You can pick and choose what’s relevant to you:
1. Use effective autosuggest
Autosuggest speeds up the process of finding an item and reduces the misspelling mistakes a user might do. This functionality is particularly important and useful to those who have dyslexia or are non-native speakers.
Dyslexia Dyslexic people might have spelling and typing difficulties, extra help would be appreciated.
Cultural difference People don’t necessarily search in their mother tongue language. English is my fourth language, so I sometimes make grammatical mistakes and therefore appreciate the help when I don’t know how to spell the word correctly.
Airbnb — great use of autosuggest
2. Provide clear, relevant and accurate results
It’s important to return the most accurate and useful results to the user’s query. The most important results appear on the first page.
Make sure your product pages and images have the correct description (meta-tags) in place. This will help your search engine find and identify your product and match it with the relevant user query.
However, you should always add alternative descriptions for your products so that these are in line with how your users will search for.
“70% of e-commerce sites require users to search by the exact jargon for the product type that the website uses, failing to return relevant products for, say, “blow dryer” if “hair dryer” is typed, or “multifunction printer” if “all-in-one printer” is typed.” — Smashing Magazine
Look out for a case study on the do’s and don’ts of using search, which I have based on the Burberry’s search website.
3. Keep the users' query after they hit ‘Search’
Give users the flexibility to change their initial query in case they don’t find what they are looking for. Make their life easy and don’t make them retype the entire query again.
Amazon — retaining your query so that you can edit it
Also, restore recent search so that users don’t need to retype when searching for the same thing again.
Google maps — keeping previous search
4. Show the number of search results and choose a convenient layout
Make sure you show the number of search results and choose a convenient layout to display them.
The layout depends on the type of results users are looking for. Ex.: Images will be better displayed on a card system layout.
For news content, you might want to give a snipped of the articles.
Depending on the nature of the results layout, you might want to give users the flexibility to choose ‘list-view’ or ‘grid-view’.
For grid layouts, make sure the image size is big enough to be recognizable and small enough to allow the display of more products at the time.
5. Allow users to recover from misspelling errors & Indicate the number of results
Don’t return ‘no results’, allow users to recover from misspelling errors. Try and find the nearest results that the users might have thought of.
Also, display the number of results the system has found up front. This gives user the opportunity to think about how much time they need to spend finding their item.
6. Provide a sorting and filtering system in the search result
If you have a lot of content to dive in, provide sort and filter options, help users filter the content by the most relevant to them.
7. Show search progress
This aligns with Jakob Nielsen’s first usability heuristic in interaction design visibility of system status.
“The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.”
Ideally, the results would show immediately but sometimes you can’t control that. Use a progress design that’s right for the load time. I’ll write about that in a future article.
Copper Preloader jared Erondu & Jeremy Goldberg
Delaying search results
Usually, a wait for a page to load is due to the fact that the information wanted is not cached and the server needs to contact external services. However, sometimes a delay in showing results provide reassurance and hence, designing the right load is important.
Finally, search and design
Design-wise, a search is an input field and a search button. Here is a detailed article on search design best practices 5 important things you need to consider when designing for search.
Before you go!
If you liked this article, clap and share. Get in touch if you have any questions or any examples you want to share. If you liked this article, you might also like:
Lastly, we created www.idir.co.uk to help people reduce stress and unwind using highly concentrated CBD products. I’m working on our case study and I will share the tips of dealing with e-commerce platforms as soon as I finish it. Stay tuned ;)