Last week we wrote about how important strong site search is for ecommerce websites, but this week we got questions from several customers about what site owners can do to make visitors actually use the search bar on their site. To summarize our advice and share these tips with a broader audience, we thought it would be helpful to create a specific blog post with tips about how to tweak your site so that more visitors use your search bar as the primary navigation tool.
Make it easy to find. We’ve written before about how Amazon’s homepage has evolved to feature such a prominent search bar, and how users expect to find this same interface across the web. The logic behind this evolution is simple – a larger, more prominent search bar will quickly catch users’ eyes and draw them towards it when they first land on your site. The key here, however, is not to let this logic fall apart when it comes to the rest of your website. Users will arrive to your site from a wide range of locations, and you should be sure that the search bar is easy to find on all pages. You might even consider configuring your site so that when visitors land on new pages, their cursor automatically starts in the search bar. We particularly like the way Shopify positions the search bar on their support page.
Walk in your visitors’ (proverbial) shoes. Don’t just think about a visitor’s first interaction with the search bar on your homepage, think about how they might want to use the search bar as they move through every part of your website. Many users will want to perform multiple searches on your site, so consider placing your search bar in a static site-wide header, making it easy to find at any point. Facebook is a perfect example of this. As you scroll down your Newsfeed, the search bar remains fixed to the top of the screen so you can enter a search without needing to scroll back to the top of the page. Other examples include YouTube, LivingSocial, Business Insider, and Mashable.
Increase your search bar’s functionality. The better the search bar works for users, the more they will use it to find the content they are looking for. Consider implementing an autocomplete dropdown that quickly directs users to popular pages before they finish typing their query. The faster users find what they are looking for, the more satisfied they will be and the longer they will stay on your site. Dramafever provides a segmented autocomplete that lets users choose specific content types directly from the search bar.
Prepare your search for mobile. More and more people are browsing the web with their smartphones today than ever before, and whether they are reading news or shopping online, search needs to work well for these users as well. In ecommerce alone, IBM predicts that 48.2% of online traffic and 24.4% of sales will come from mobile devices this holiday season. Capitalize on this traffic stream by optimizing your mobile website or app for search.
Experiment! Test out the changes you make on your website to see what produces the most conversions. Try placing your search bar in different locations, test out multiple autocomplete styles, or change up the way your faceted navigation works. Optimizely does a great job of helping site owners run powerful A/B testing across their site, and these tests can drive key UI decisions.
These changes will ensure that both site owners and visitors are getting the most out of their site search. In fact, site owners who use Swiftype to power their search have reported up to a 4x increase in their monthly query volume after implementation. Get started today with free trial, or for more information, contact our sales department to hear more about what Swiftype can do for you.