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Innovation and Product Development

Search Results: Tools to Give Users What They Want Now

Consumers know what they want, and they want it now. We live in a wonderful world where you can have a made-to-order sandwich delivered in just 15 minutes. With customer expectations set high, it’s unlikely that they will stay on a site if they can’t find what they are looking for in under 15 seconds. This is why it’s important to make sure your search results are strategic and user-friendly.

Make Your Search Results “Human-Friendly”

On a search page, the visitor’s focus should be drawn to the search results. If your site header/banner is large, auto-scroll to the top of the search results list once a query is performed. Be careful with the size of banners and headers on the results page.
Requiring your visitors to scroll to the results section after performing a search can be frustrating, so use an anchor on the page to avoid this. If the user changes something with their search (by unselecting a facet, for example), make sure that they are able to return to their previous spot rather than going to the top of the page.
Facets help visitors quickly drill down on their search results by limiting the number of facets. If you offer too many, or irrelevant, facets, things quickly become confusing. The number and nature of facets you display can (and should) vary based on the query and results themselves, but its best to not let the facet list exceed the length of the result list itself.
On mobile search pages, you should be even more selective with facets, due again to the limited real estate. Determine your three most popular facets and offer those on your mobile site. Or select a search solution that enables dynamic faceting, which displays the best facets based upon the specific query, user, or results.
Be flexible when it comes to language. Visitors often use different terms to describe the same thing (“lifts” or “elevators” for example) and your site search should take those human differences into account. To deliver the desired search results, ensure your search solution provides an integrated thesaurus so synonyms can be easily mapped.

Make Your Search Results Comprehensive

Make sure that everything your visitors need is searchable. This seems like a no-brainer, but many organizations fail to make sure all the content their visitors need and want is searchable. This often includes content residing beyond your CMS or WCM, in product catalogs, document management systems, third-party sites, or elsewhere. Be sure your search solution enables the swift indexing of every source system where content resides.
By default, many CMS and WCM out-of-the-box site search solutions will only index the metadata of your web pages and site content, and not the actual body of content itself. For optimal findability, leverage a solution that can index the HTML representation of your site pages and the content of any documents you want visitors to find, regardless of format. This includes PDFs, Microsoft Office files, and any fields within the structured content that contain information you want visitors to leverage. The Sitecore data architecture provides an inherent separation of content and presentation allowing you to easily specify the content to be indexed regardless of its presentation.

Make It Easy for Users to Assess Relevance

Help visitors quickly determine if a search result will be useful to them by offering a “quick view” capability. This is a big time saver for your visitors as they no longer have to download an entire document to determine if it’s relevant to their needs.
In your search result templates, offer a relevant summary or excerpt from the document to help visitors understand why the document matched their query. Highlighting keywords within the excerpt/summary adds even more value.
Download our guide,  Top Tips To Boost Conversions With Personalized Site Search, for more information on improving your user experience.
Do you have other tips to improve search results? Comment and share them with us.

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