10 Rules to Help You Build an Efficient Search Engine
A search engine is an indispensable element of any website. From e-commerce through information services to blog sites, no one can go without a way to search for a keyword. While a well-designed and efficient search engine is the key to success, a user who may be frustrated by a poorly designed search engine may leave the website in frustration and never return.
An effective and reliable search engine makes it easy for users to find what they are looking for and increases their satisfaction. In regards to e-commerce, this has a direct effect by usually increasing sales, conversion rates and encouraging customers to return.
Here are some rules that you should follow when designing your search engine:
A search engine that makes it possible for a user to find data should be easily accessible so that the user does not have to search for it on the site. Ideally, the window should be accessible form the main page. Additionally, the button color and message should clearly indicate that the page is searchable; it’s good practice to permanently stick it at the top of the page.
Call To Action (CTA) Button
The button used to confirm the search should encourage the user to use it. Clearly identified, preferably with the “Search” message, which is better than the “Next” or “Go” labels, as users may misunderstand these terms. Also, the message encouraging entry should be coherent and clear, as seen below.
Filtering search results is now a primary feature that allows users to fine-tune their preferences. With this option, users don’t have to pile up a lot of generalized items, instead they can choose filters which yields less, more accurate results.
It’s good practice to split the filtration into stages. For instance, while typing on the main page a certain category, and then allowing for further filtration after the category is established.
Users like to personalize the site to their preferences. For example, to change how the results are displayed (tiles, list) and to change the number of results displayed per page.
It is also useful to give the user information on how many products were found and more specifically, in which categories. Users who are searching for something specific need to be clear about where they can find it.
A good search engine should give suggestions to the user. As you enter your keywords, autocomplete can give hints that appear which can show the user the intended search without actually using the search engine itself. This reduces the time it takes for the user to find what they are searching for, increasing user satisfaction.
As a hint, autocomplete suggestions should be logically sorted, either by category or alphabetically, and preferably by a thumbnail image.
Quality search engines are flexible and error free. Search engines should be programmed to accept different characters and spellings for certain items (especially in e-commerce), and should redirect clients to their intended results.
This also should include flexibility, which may mean programming a search engine to focus on a choice word or a few choice words (depending on what your customers may be searching for) and redirect them to the right area.
Ability to edit
It is important that if users type in their first search criteria and come up empty, they should be allowed to edit what they have typed without retyping the entire word/phrase again. This leads to a more satisfying experience for the user.
The Ability to Save the Search
Users often search for certain items or interesting information for a long time, and in multiple places. Giving them the opportunity to save the search will enable them to instantly have the answers they need when they return to your site.
Appearance and Fit
Every industry requires a specific search engine. For instance, search engines on travel pages are much more extensive and contain many more filters than a search engine on a blog site. Finding the right set-up and look for your search engine is important. Users expect search engines to be somewhat standardized across industries, so making your search engine comparable to another in your industry may not be a bad thing.
No one likes waiting for their search results. Make sure your search engine is technically competent enough to find the right data in the shortest possible time. If the database your user is searching is extensive and requires time to search it, then make sure you let the user know when they can expect results in the form of a loading stripe or a circle indicating percentage of completed search.
While a search engine may not make or break your site, it can be a valuable tool for your users. If you follow the aforementioned guidelines, you can rest assured that they will be happy with it. This means that you will be happy with increased sales, traffic and returning visitors.
Article written by:
Paulina Solecka – UX Specialist