The option to search your website is a great way to help users who know what they’re looking for get to it quickly.
Internal search also serves as an essential life line to anyone who has found themselves stuck or perplexed by your navigation (hopefully this won’t happen too often!). It’s a great function to refer visitors to if they aren’t able to find what they’re looking for – it’s on our list of what should be included in 404 pages.
Essential Internal Search Features
There are some features that even the most basic internal search functions should adhere to. Making sure that your internal search follows the typical implementation that you visitors are likely to be accustomed to is essential for a positive experience for your users.
Familiar location of the search box
Of the most popular websites in the UK, most of them use a very similar layout when it comes to their header and navigation menus.
Top right is the fairly standard placement for a search bar. If, however your website is more reliant on search as a way of navigation (think Amazon.co.uk) then a more prominent, central position would be preferable.
You want to make sure that your visitors can identify that your internal search is a search bar and understand what to expect from using it.
The familiar magnifying glass icon or the word ‘Search’ should be enough to allow your internal search bar to be easily recognised.
Allow Easy Search Refinement
The user’s search should remain in the search box when the search results are displayed, allowing the searcher to refine their search if the results aren’t what was expected.
Additional search features
If you have a fairly small and simple website then a search bar and clear search results might do the trick for you. If, however, you have a larger site you might want to add additional features to help your searchers find what they’re looking for.
To really excel in the internal search stakes, you can look at including some of the following features:
- Auto-suggest or instant results to reflect content on the website or other popular searches
- ‘Did you mean?’ and auto-correct support for editing queries
- Number of results found
- Informative snippets in the search results – titles, URLs, description, image, social shares, ‘you last visited this page 2 days ago’
- Related searches or items
- Advanced search options – date published etc.
- Filters – (depending on content) – Content type, date or theme
What are your users using internal search for?
Before making any changes or updating your internal search features, you should monitor the use of your internal search. This can easily be done through Google Analytics.
Take special attention to find out:
- What are your users searching for?
- What does it say about the structure of your website?
- What is the intention behind the searches?
By understanding the intention of your users, you’ll be much better equipped to make the right changes to make their experience simpler and easier.
You should also use this information to monitor the effect of any changes you make.
Get in touch today to find out how your website can work harder for you.