Have you got the chance to apply the simple tweaks and techniques shared with you in the first part of this post? Ready now to further improve the on-site search user experience by focusing on the usability of your internal search results?
For, in vain you make your search box fully visible and usable if the options that the user gets once he/she enters his search phrase are just... irrelevant, unhelpful.
That's why in today's post we'll be shifting focus from the search box to the internal search results themselves:
What can you do, as a website owner, to ensure that your search functionality triggers the most relevant, most useful options only?
5. Improve Your Page Load Speed
“Don't make your website visitors search for the... search bar!” is equally critical as:
“Don't keep your users waiting too long for the search results to get displayed!”
Speed is crucial, so make sure you've applied all the due techniques. And there sure are a lot, ranging from common sense ones to truly sophisticated performance tweaks to keep your page load speed below... 3 seconds.
Note: If loading takes more than 2-3 seconds, just get resourceful. Display a progress indicator or a suitable animation to keep users distracted from the waiting process.
6. Prepare a Back-Up for the “No Results to Display” Scenarios
How are you planning to manage the “empty searches” situations?
For, there will be instances when there's no content on your website that could possibly match the users' search terms.
In this case, you can always apply the 2-step “emergency plan” to improve the on-site search user experience:
- first, you make sure that your search functionality has scanned your entire website content: PDFs and other file formats, CMS pages and full copy here included, not just metadata, etc.
- you present them alternative search options related, to some extent, to their entered queries: broad matches, contextual category links, etc.
Word of caution: providing a list including all the categories on your website or displaying top searches do not qualify as alternative search suggestions that could boost the UX.
7. Improve the On-Site Search User Experience: Add Filtering Options
Another one of the highly effective internal site search best practices is adding filters that narrow down the user's options to the most relevant ones.
For instance, you could segment their search options into “Blogs”, “Support”, “Products” etc. and thus speed up the search process.
Note: set up your analytics so you get the most of them; the most relevant data that you can then use to constantly optimize your filters
8. Leverage Semantic Search to Provide More Relevant Search Results
Tune the result relevancy and you'll improve the on-site search user experience.
In your quest for relevancy, semantic search makes your most powerful ally:
- the whole process taking place “behind the curtains” will be much more than a mere keyword matching, thanks to natural language processing.
- you avoid the risk of frustrating the user by returning too many search results instead of displaying the most relevant ones only
- you won't convey the message that you have no regard of the user's effort to enter a specific, long-tail query
- a semantic search implementation leverages a “context vs intent” formula and generates results that are 100% relevant to the user's search intent...
Note: if you can't make use of semantic search on your website, there's always a better alternative than the free text search box. For instance, you could set up a constrained search and guide the user towards the most relevant search phrase...
These are the last 4 simple techniques that you can apply to improve the on-site search user experience.
Now, to sum up the key advice that we've shared with you in this 2-part blog post:
- search result relevancy should be your main goal
- a well-designed UI is worthless without a well thought-through logic behind it
- predictive and semantic search should be the pillars that you base your on-site search function on...