Organizing information is a science in itself. We always rely on finding information resources on the Internet. It seems to have endless information with very sophisticated technologies to access it. The most fundamental way of finding the required information on the Internet is the Search Function.
The simple search box seems to just be a very small component in the website design, but this simple functionality when implemented with great efforts, can enhance the usability of the website extensively. It is a strategy implemented into design to help the users find relevant content. Users can find content by specifying keywords or phrases without navigating through the entire website structure.
The search functionality can be included as a simple form on the web page. It can be an input box followed by a submit button. For more specific searches, there can be a link to a more advanced search form in a different page. However, only including a simple/advanced search form is not enough. It requires to be functional and provide relevant results. A search module, to be effective, should be easily accessible from any page of the website, and be able to find any content that the users is looking for.
Categorized search is a concept used in websites with categorized products. It narrows down results with the use of a sidebar filtering options. This sidebar further filters the generated results.
The design of this simple component should be functionally relevant to the content it is searching for. The input field should be long enough for users to see what they have typed in. A sample text may also be put in the input box by default that disappears when the user types in. Extended functionalities like spell check, auto-correction and auto-suggestions can greatly enhance this module.
The submit or the search button should be relevant to the overall design of the page. Creativity can be applied, but the user’s perspective should be kept in mind. The user should be easily able to locate the submit button. This submit button should also be different than any other button in the web page.
The results displayed are of equal importance as its functionality. When a result page is generated, following a few guidelines can engage the user better. Design a result page that is easy to understand. The matching keywords can be made bold and larger in size than the rest of the text. The generated records should be clickable/expandable as per website context. The clicked records can be given a ‘visited mark’ for the users to know they have already seen the product. The input box needs to be featured on the results page with the specified keywords in there, so that the users are able to change the keywords whenever they want. Last but not the least, the ‘No Results’ page should be avoided as much as possible. Instead, a page with ‘similar’ results can be generated.
Several websites now send newsletters based on the user’s search history. This is a very effective marketing strategy which provides users with updates on products they are interested in. This implies that a user’s search history is recorded and monitored. Youtube.com generates suggested videos based on recent views. A well implemented search function has a great potential for the success of any website. The search feature of google.com is a great example to understand this fact.