|Site Search -- good or bad?|
I've been hearing and reading contradictory opinions about the effectivenss of a site search function in establishing a successful site. The two camps seem to say:
--Site search is an expected courtesy and even a necessity on larger sites
--For many new visitors, itís either search or run away
--Repeat visitors can use search to explore every nook of your site
--Site Search gives statistics that help you to figure out how to improve your site
--Site search can hurt stickiness. If a visitor doesn't get a good result from their first search, they often leave
--Basic site search often gives poor results--no accommmodation for synonyms, misspellings, spelling variations, etc.
--It's very resource intensive to develop a thorough site search.
--Good information architecture makes the whole site easy and inviting to explore without a search function
--Site search is, therefore, often a cover up for poor navigation
--Search discourages visitors from exploring the whole site over several visits
Does anyone have any thoughts, experiences, stickiness stats to share on this?
My litmus test is if one or two users say; dude, you need a search engine on your site. It tells me the site has enough info, that people are digging and still not finding what they came to find - it is time to add an engine. I start off with just a link to the search form and if people use it alot, then I make it part of the home page.
I include a site search simply because when I visit a large site that lacks one, I'm annoyed and rarely return. A site I find easy to use gets bookmarked and visited repeatedly.
If you design your site as a surfer prefers it rather then as a salesman prefers it, you'll do much better in the long term, methinks.
I agree that a search function is rather important to any large and serious site. But here is a question for you.
I am building a niche directory site about, well pardon my coyness, lets just use "tables" as an example.
The site will contain not only MY information about said TABLES in both Directory and Search format, but also a Directory of TABLE sites, and a search engine for pages about TABLES. I would also include a search function for my site.
So the question is, with five different directory/search functions, "How do I lable these?"
I can't use the simple Search button because there will be three different search functions, and the same with two different Directories. Or Can I? Should I have one search form and use a drop down selector on one Search function? Is the general public savvy enough to choose from a drop down in a search form.
Or should I lable them differently in the main menu and if so how?
An intriguing question which "in recent weeks has been very much apon my mind." <Hullo Python Fans>
>>Is the general public savvy enough to choose from a drop down in a search form.<<
I don't think so. With the average user, it's pretty much
1) see a search box
2) fill it in
3) hit the enter key.
Have you considered using radio buttons next or below the search box? That at least puts the choices always on screen -- I'd say that gives a better chance that John Q. will grok the situation.
>>Is the general public savvy -- I don't think so.
I ten to agree, hence my dilemma.
>>Have you considered using radio buttons next or below the search box?
Nope! Good Idea though (Duh!!))))))
Yahoo UK [yahoo.co.uk] seems to work well, the default search is "worldwide", when the results are displayed these options are available:
You have just searched the whole of Yahoo!.
Try searching Yahoo! for just UK sites or Irish sites to narrow your results.
The key is to get the default setting right as this is what the majority will use.
Where the average surfer is involved I always go with the K.I.S.S. principle.
>with five different directory/search functions, "How do I lable these?"
My inclination would be to use five different search boxes, and maybe a sixth for "Search All." When I'm just relaxing and bouncing from link to link, it takes something special to lift my hand from the mouse all the way to the keyboard. If I must engage my brain too, that's asking too much... :)