Contingency design: Search engines and search terms
“Search is one of the most important user interface elements in any large website. As a rule of thumb, sites with more than about 200 pages should offer search.”Search and You May Find, Jakob Nielsen
- Give the visitor a clear explanation and tips if his or her search term does not yield any results.
For example: “No results were found for
green house. Try searching for a single term.”.
- Give visitors the opportunity to expand their search criteria if the search term entered does not yield any results.
The page with (or without) search results should not be a dead end. For example, repeat the search field with the previously entered search term, so the visitor can change it easily. If a visitor is looking for the title of a book and the search does not produce any results, he could be asked whether he would like to search by author or ISBN number.
- Keep search forms small in size and easy to use.
Provide functions with detailed forms – for instance, ‘advanced search ’ – as an alternative method.
- Anticipate common ‘mistakes’ by visitors.
For example: spelling errors, punctuation marks (hyphens, full stops, et cetera), synonyms, abbreviations and plural and singular forms of terms.
- Give visitors the opportunity to sort, filter or refine their search results.
If a search produces a large number of results, the visitor may appreciate the opportunity to sort or filter the search results by source, relevance or context. Visitors should be able to start a new search within the displayed results to further refine the search results.