Are you using your website's search functionality to its full potential? Do your users always get the most relevant site search results? Do you think... it could be better and you wonder how you could improve the on-site search user experience?

Now, let me guess: you'd want to optimize it quick and easy, by just incorporating some simple internal search best practices into your optimization routine.

It can be done.

We've already selected 8 easy-to-apply techniques to boost the user experience from the on-site search standpoint. 

But first, let's clear up a few key aspects:   

  • optimizing the internal search user experience doesn't mean just checking that your search box gets, displayed on your targetted web pages and that it delivers some... results
  • opting for an on-site search tool that ships with built-in search functionality doesn't automatically guarantee you the best on-site search user experience
  • your implemented site search tool won't just work on its own, by default, with no “tweaking” effort from your side

In short: there's more to the user experience than the user interface (the fact that the well-designed search box gets displayed is not enough). 

And in this respect, the relevancy of your site search results is key and, in order to achieve it, you need to consider the whole logic behind the UI, as well.

Now, let's pinpoint these 8 best practices that'll help you improve the on-site search user experience. They're aimed at enhancing the usability of both your search box and your search result page.

1. Make Sure Your Search Box Has a Clear Call to Action 

Is the user action of your search box... self-evident? Is it obvious for your website users, the instant they land on that page, that that is a... search bar?

Now, here are a few tips to ensure that your search box does have a clear call to action:

  • support your text prompt with a “Find” or “Search” button or with a magnifying glass icon
  • pay attention to your search box's design; make sure it leaves no room for ambiguity over what role it serves
  • enter a placeholder text (“Find events”, “What are you looking for” etc.) in your search bar

2. Give Users Predictive Search Suggestions on Their Entered Queries

Another effective way to optimize the on-site search user experience is by giving them a helping hand with... entering the right input.

Predictive search suggestions and autocomplete drop-down menus will narrow down their search term options and speed things up. 

What you can do is to make sure that:

  • your drop-down suggestions display “in category” search results
  • your autocomplete suggestions partly disclose specific content (maybe even pairing it with images, as well)

Note: in order to enhance readability, feel free to highlight the matching parts between the user's entered query and the query suggestions provided by your search function.

3. Improve the On-Site Search User Experience: Make It Visible

An apparently insignificant UI improvement like:

  • making your search box wider
  • putting it on a more visible section on a web page or even site-wide

… will definitely boost the user experience.

And here are some actionable tips for you to make your search box more visible:

  • make sure the input field is wide enough to accommodate a minimum of 27 characters
  • don't “bury” it in a hamburger menu
  • don't reduce it to a small, easy to miss icon
  • don't put it too close to boxes triggering different CTAs (e.g. the sign in box)
  • display it on every relevant web page on your site

And also, a few simple best practices on how to make your search box more... usable, as well:

  • consider triggering search interface in a separate window if your website's a multiple-category one (e.g. an online store)
  • consider opting for an overlay search window if you have infinite scrolling functionality implemented on your website
  • make sure the search bar changes its color/size when the user hovers over, just to signal its functionality
  • use a flashing cursor to prompt the user to enter his/her query

4. “Train” Your Search Function for Imperfect User Input Scenarios

Another basic, yet effective way to improve the on-site search user experience is by preparing your search function to handle the imperfect search queries... gracefully.

In other words, it should be perfectly adapted to deliver search results even when users enter:

  • synonyms
  • stop words
  • singular or plural variants
  • casing
  • numbers
  • misspellings

… in the search bar. 

Note: remember to display the user's original misspelled phrase, as well, and to accompany it with a clear search option, relevant for his/her initial query...

END of Part 1.

Stay tuned, for we have 4 more tips to share with you on how to improve the on-site search user experience. “Tips” that address search result page usability issues, as well.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


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