Recently, I took a stroll through The WayBack Machine. Launched in 2001, The WayBack Machine is a digital archive of the World Wide Web, a veritable treasure trove of Internet information and oddities. Trust me when I say you will find some deliciously horrid early attempts at website design and user experience (UX).
Check out this Amazon screen grab from July, 2000. Yeesh, that’s bad.
Today (thankfully!), Amazon’s website looks like this:
And what do you see immediately upon landing on their site? Search. Big, bold. Upfront and up-top.
Considering a website redesign? You need to follow Amazon’s lead, no matter your industry. Here’s why:
The Evolution of Web Surfing
2017 is predicted to see more website traffic than in all other “internet years” combined! Gone are the days when a consumer would tolerate a website as poorly designed and laid out as the early Amazon one above. Today’s consumers want results, and they want them fast. They don’t want to waste time clicking through menus and drop-downs, which is why rich search capabilities are key.
Users today also expect to find easy-to-navigate search functionality on their mobile devices. Sixty five percent of mobile users say that when conducting a search on their smartphones, they look for, and expect, the most relevant information to pop up first.
When you mention search today, people immediately think of Google. But the last thing you want is for frustrated searchers to leave your site and head back to Google. If your search capabilities aren’t up to snuff, they will, and they probably won’t be back.
What Makes a Great Search Interface?
A search box is included in almost every web design, but it’s often overlooked or treated as an afterthought. Search makes it easier for users to find the content they’re looking for, as well as the content you want them to see. The search box’s design should support that exchange, be functional, easy to use, and accessible.
Equally as important, the right software powering your website’s search helps you gather information about your users, such as what product information they search for the most, which keywords or queries they are using, and an overall picture of their needs and their pain points.
Here are the top things to consider when designing and optimizing your website search:
Search Box Placement
Do your site visitors have to waste time searching for your search bar? That’s a big no-no. Position it front and center, and include a text bar and an icon (if possible). The ubiquitous “magnifying glass” icon is a great example. Make sure your “submit” button is big and bold, especially on mobile (avoid “fat thumb” syndrome wherever possible!)—and add your search bar to every page. Don’t hide search anywhere “below the fold” or in a navigation menu.
Keep. It. Simple. We can’t stress this enough. Design should focus on the box itself and it should be clear how it functions. At its most basic, it should include a full open text field, title, action button and an obvious search trigger. Usability studies show that it is more user-friendly to not have advanced search options/features displayed by default, as they often only serve to confuse and frustrate users.
An advanced search algorithm and language modeling functionality are the first things to look for. Your system should intuitively know what consumers are searching for using bigram matching, phrase matching, auto complete, and more. Filters on results page add another layer of functionality to your site search, allowing users to easily drill down to find exactly what they’re looking for.
On the backend, an intelligent site search solution should also have user-friendly dashboards that provide detailed analytics, making it easier for your teams to access—and act upon—the search data collected. A smart software will help you see that pattern so you can immediately update search results to keep visitors on your site—and not bouncing back to Google to find a competitor.
Your solution should allow you to:
- Customize your search results
- Add results for popular queries
- Have the option to promote more relevant content, like higher margin products or the latest news stories
- Control who can view what information and data
- Integrate easily with your current tools
Your search bar is an essential tool in your digital toolbox and should be showcased both in design and function. If you would like to learn more about how Swiftype can help supercharge your site search capabilities, we would love to chat!