By Timo Selvaraj
As a certified usability analyst, I advise customers on how to enable the best user experience for your website or intranet. I have compiled a short list of best practices that serve as a foundation for enabling better usability for search. As organizations draw up plans to engage their employees and customers to make effective use of their website or intranet, it is critical not just to have information but to also make them accessible through search and faceted navigation. This list is by no means comprehensive to go through every UX best practice but it purely serves as a springboard to deeper conversations, analysis and changes.
Search is visible and everywhere
If an employee or customer cannot navigate, they have essentially hit a roadblock, their only other option is search at this point (or calling someone for help). A great search is a necessity in this age of information overload. Your search needs to be highly visible and available from everywhere so it widely accessible to your users. Your navigation or header needs to include a search box/option and it needs to accommodate searching your entire site from wherever they are in the navigational hierarchy.
Search connects content with your user’s intent
A site visitor’s intent for search is defined by what they are looking to find in the context of what you offer from a content perspective. Search relevance is directly related to your context within your content. If your content is written for a specific audience or in a certain manner but a majority of your audience is a different group or uses a “dialect”, search is going to produce poor relevance no matter what you do. Content architecture and copywriting needs to take into account your search intent rather that just information presentation. Features like synonyms and featured results bridge that gap in intent vs relevance. Well researched user intent within your content will produce highly relevant results without the need for any special tuning.
Search display/UI needs to be relevant
As we always have more content than what fits within the first 10 results, filtering options like faceted search are required rather than a nice to have feature now. We no longer live in the age of presenting 10 results on a screen for display and having the users choose from that. Pagination of results is no longer an option that customers prefer to use as witnessed by the lack of traffic for 2nd, 3rd or 4th page results. Faceted search addresses this issue by effectively having the user provide their context and narrow down the results by date or file type or keywords etc.
Search queries and results clickthroughs are your user feedback
Your user feedback is simply “listening” to your search queries and documents viewed by your site visitors. This enables you to see what your users are looking for and making them accessible. More important is the fact that you need to know where the users seem to land after searching for a term. If there is a disconnect with where you want the users to land for a search term and where they are actually going to, this is going to be very clear with the feedback.
Federated search is a key enabler for your site
The ability to provide one search that combines your website, blog, news feeds and any custom information from a database is critical to ensure your visitors can perform one search. Ensuring there is one search box that does it all is key to ensure the visitors are seeing the full content rather than information from just one silo.
Following these simple best practices can help put your search on a better path to usability and satisfaction. SearchBlox is built with search UX best practices from the ground up and our goal is to provide the right features for your users intent. Please contact us to find out how we can turn your search into a best in class implementation.
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