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Accessibility and Usability Forum

How important is a site search in usability?
should it be on each page or just the HP?

 3:59 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm looking into a better site search, one that just searches my site without ads. (I've been using the free google one)

I think I may have found one I like in FDSE. It is supposed to be fully accessible too.

In terms of usability where should a search box be placed? Is putting one on every page overdoing it?



 4:18 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Excellent question! I think the question becomes even more important if you have different types of searches available: site search, product search, etc.

I have not personally performed any research on the matter, or even read any, but I would be inclined to say that the site search should be available on every page. People are likely to land on any page, from which they may want to perform a site search. Also, if they have entered through your homepage, then navigated down, it seems awkward to have to return to the homepage first before using the search.

Another important matter that comes into play is whether your site structure is logically broken up into different sections or not. If that's the case, you may need a section option to your search, where "search within this section" is the default. From the homepage "search entire site" should of course be the default.

Finally, something that greatly increases usability is to be able to return to the latest search results, even if browsing away through other pages. A prominent link somewhere, "Return to search results" would be very handy, both from usability and accessibility perspective.

I don't know if there's something I'm forgetting, so I would like to invite others to comment on what they have noticed works well.


 5:11 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

From the Usability Guru himself...

Search: Visible and Simple

Search is the user's lifeline for mastering complex websites. The best designs offer a simple search box on the home page and play down advanced search and scoping.

In terms of usability where should a search box be placed?

Definitely above the fold (ATF). Most likely to the right of the screen, usually top right. The search box should always be in view, at all times.

Keep it simple, no advanced features within the search box. Add a link to an advanced search page. Make the search box wide enough to support most of the query lengths.

I've also found that providing a link to on-site search from the main navigation menu helps.

A little OT but maybe of importance to some, having an on-site search appears to influence Googlebot activity. This has only happened on sites I manage where the query is passed through the URI string. I've watched searches being performed and then within 5 minutes Googlebot crawling the exact same URI string with the search query. ;)


 6:16 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've been reading "Don't make Me Think" which got me to thinking about search. Krug and Nielson both seem to think a simple search box is best. They both say to put in on every page too.

Mine is a content site. Maybe search will cut down on the people who write and ask me a question that could be answered by something on my site.

My inclinations is to put it at the bottom of my navigation which is in the left column.


 6:42 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)


I have a question regarding site search and adsense?

I know that using the Google search box is a good system to increase your revenue.

But, I would like to know if using DHTML - so that a small DHTML window appear with the following "Search this term in Google" when user pass the mouse over a certain term - is a good idea and if it complies with Adsense TOS?

Thank you


 7:11 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Whether it complies with AdSense TOS is a question for the AdSense [webmasterworld.com] forum.

Now, to the other question ... would the user be able to click the term to search it in Google, or how exactly had you envisioned the functionality?


 3:37 pm on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Mine is a content site. Maybe search will cut down on the people who write and ask me a question that could be answered by something on my site.

This sounds more like an FAQs solution is in order in addition to the search function.

I always tell my clients this, "If the question has been asked more than once, it probably qualifies for an entry on the FAQs page(s).

My inclinations is to put it at the bottom of my navigation which is in the left column.

I also refer to that as "gut instinct". If your gut is telling you that is where it should be, then so be it. Sometimes though, following the leaders is usually a good option too. If your bottom left navigation is ATF (Above The Fold), and you can provide enough contrast so that visitors can easily find it, then it should work just fine.

I personally think it should be by itself in the upper right hand corner or, at the top of the left navigation or, somewhere in the left navigation above the fold. After years of surfing, you find that you look for things in certain areas.


 3:55 pm on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

P.S. A little OT but related to this topic. If you have the ability to rewrite your internal search queries, I recommend doing this. Why? Well, for one, it makes for a much user friendly URI when being passed around. Two, you can trim out a lot of fat and produce a URI that normally will not break. Three, there are some advantages to this in other areas. ;)

For example, we convert spaces to +. We may also take multiple words and separate with hyphens in the query string. There are a few other things we look at too. ;)


 4:34 pm on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

tomda, Yes do check that idea with AdSense before you try it. I have a feeling the answer will be no. You don't want to do anything to risk your account.

The other problem with your idea is that it is not simple and obvious. In "Don't Make Me Think", Krug says anything the visitor has to puzzle over even for a second hurts your usability.

I tried the Google AdSense search and found it to be extremely cluttered with ads and it paid very poorly. Since my goal is to get people to stay on my site longer the Fluid Dynamics Search Engine I selected is perfect. It simply gives results, not clutter. And I found I could set the CSS so that the results page looks like part of my site in terms of font, color and background. I'm sure there are other good site searches out there as well.

PS this is off topic but if you haven't added the adsense ad links units to your site do. They will earn a lot more than Google search. (I just started a thread about usability and adsense)

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