Search on the Site: the Best Practical Tips on Usability

The users are accustomed to finding the necessary information in search engines quickly and it is obvious that they will expect to find a similar function on the internet shop website.

An effective search function on e-commerce resources has a number of advantages:

  • Increase in sales. The search function helps to find the right product quickly, and thus speeds up the path to purchase.
  • Higher rates of conversion. Intuitive interface and good site navigation simplifies the user experience and increases conversion.
  • It improves branding. Good usability increases customer’s loyalty and gives you a competitive advantage.

Ruslan Kryuchkov, a leading usability expert of USABILITYLAB thinks:

The search function helps you to find the right product quickly. This function is especially important for the shops with a very wide range of goods. For example, it is true for bookstores. After all, every book has its unique name, and the user is usually looking for the right publication by title, author, entering this information into the search box.

So, the tip number one is – offer users the “Search on the site” function.

“What an amazing revelation!” – You might think, but you’d be surprised to find out that some major e-commerce sites still do not do that.

H & M:

However, on the brand site the filtration is well performed.

So, the tip number 2. If you can not/do not want to make the perfect search – set the tools of work with the catalog: its structure and filters, to the best.

 Search box placement

The search box and all the navigation on the site should be visible throughout the site, so that visitors could easily navigate through the pages they need.

Most e-commerce websites place the search box at the top of the page, above the navigation menu, as in the following example from Best Buy:

As it is noted by Depeche Mandali (Depesh Mandali) a, Conversion & Product manager of  ticket.com:

It does not have to be the most visible element on the page, but users should find it intuitively quickly, being on your site for the first time. Test different positions, find a place for the search box, where users generated most requests.

Ruslan Kryuchkov (USABILITYLAB)is of the same opinion:

Users are accustomed to a certain standard elements layout in most online shops. If you ask a user where there should be a link to the basket, he is likely to point to the top right corner. The search form is usually somewhere in the same place, at the top right of the page. Take a look at the Ozon.ru – the search form is under the header in the center of the site. In other shops, it can be just a little bit to the right or left, but it is always above the “fold” of the page for the user to see it without scrolling.

In this case, the developers of the site should not try to be original. The goal of e-commerce-site is to minimize the length of the “conversion path”: to help users quickly find the right product and buy it.

Place the search box separately from other units

Do not confuse the customer, by placing a search box too close to other units, such as a registration or entry form for an e-mail address.

You can use the color to highlight the search box, like at Play.com. This does not only attract attention, but also serves as a call to action.

It is better if the button next to the search box has the word “search” on it and it is not just an icon with the image of a loupe, for example. In addition, the button should look like a button, the user should understand that he needs to push it.

A good example is a search engine Yandex. Standard design of the button labeled “Search” is invented for the widest audience possible, including, “not advanced” users, of course. However, if your shop sells products for computer “geeks”, you  can act more freely,” – said Ruslan Kryuchkov.

The size of the search box on the site

Talking about the size of the search box, this is an area that needs to be tested. The window size will depend on the type of products sold on the site and search behavior of users.

If the customer enters long phrases in the search box, the window size must be large enough to allow users to see what they type, correct misprints or typos.

Amazon uses a fairly large search box, a user can enter a longer query, such as, make, model, serial number of an electrical good.

Text in the “Search on the site” field

Inside the search box, you can use an additional text that will clearly explain its function.

For example, Tesco store tells customers that they can search for products by keyword, code from the catalog, etc.

But having added a hint in the query input field, do not forget to make it so that the tips disappear by default when the user intends to enter a query. Do not force them to delete your text, it’s incredibly annoying.

Also, do not forget to let people run the search by pressing «Enter». Get rid of the extra need to move the cursor to the “search” button.

Allow users to narrow down the search before they start to look for something

Tesco provides a drop-down menu, so users can immediately limit the scope of their search to one category.

Advanced Search

If your site has a lot of content, allow the user to search in more detail. Provide the user with the link to the advanced search, as soon as the user starts entering a query. 

Use Autocomplete

Some retailers use the autocomplete tool that speeds up the process of searching for users and gets rid of possible misprints. It also helps if the user does not know how to spell the name of the good exactly.

Ability to auto-complete the search box gives a real boost to the conversion. Well implemented autocomplete can save customers’ time and accelerate the search process.

Ruslan Kryuchkov warns that the function of recognition, auto-complete and error correction of poor implementation can be harmful:

It is important that the search does not inflict a loss to the shop, but it happens when, for example, the search engine on the website does not include different patterns of users’ behavior and the so-called “human factor”. For example, wanting to find a book by Sergei Minaev, user can enter the author’s name as Menaev. The “bad” search can not cope with this task. But, for example, the search engine for online shop Ozon.ru recognizes this typo and does not lose a potential customer.

If you can not write a great search that works on misprints, typos, grammar mistakes, random input, that is able to understand the different forms of human querying that approaches an understanding of the sales assistant in a store – be sure to give the user a well implemented catalog and product selection tools .

“So, it is a difficult task to create the perfect search. If you have a small catalog (a few tens of goods) – you can do without it, but only if the catalog is done correctly.

Make a good navigation and filtering. So, you should easily be able to narrow down your choices, and, at the same time by several parameters (for example, to select only the red men’s jacket sizes starting with 52 to 54), to make it advanced if necessary. Also, in many cases it is desirable to provide the function of comparison of several goods with each other, because the user always faces a choice, when he likes several things at the same time, and he is going to buy one,” – concluded Ruslan.

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