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The Best Features Of Site Search


In this article by web usability guru Jakob Nielsen, he describes the significant features of useful search functions on web sites:

  • Make it simple (don't count on users being able to understand your complex or "advanced" search features).
  • Make it a box on your home page. Nielsen says people ask over and over for "the little box where I can type." Always one to test his own advice, he states that when he put a box on his home page (as opposed to a link to a search page) usage of the search feature increased 91%.
He also discusses why you should have search on your web site:
  • "Search lets users control their own destiny
  • Search is an "escape hatch" for users who are stuck trying to navigate your site.


As usual, this is an article worth reading. It is interesting to contrast his advice with people who espouse the oppposite point of view. These people say that since people fail at least 50% of the time to find what they want in a search (TRUE!), that search is a bad idea. recommends that if you have more than 50 pages in your web site, you should have a search feature. Yes, it is true that people often fail to find what they want - but our testing suite reveals ways to improve on this low average. More importantly, it is essential to realize that different people look for what they want in different ways; you need to satisfy the people who look first for the search box and then try navigation later.


Click here for the story (opens in new window)


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