|How do you get people to use a site's search function|
because it makes things easier for them
So, on my main site, I have been repeatedly running user testing to improve the site. One of the things I find very frustrating is that repeatedly, when I ask a user to locate information on the site, they NEVER use the search function. And then they complain that it is hard to find that article. Our analytics indicate this is the same for the general visitor to the site. Only about 2.5% ever use the search box to find information.
I know, I know... you should design based on how the user uses your site. And we have. When the complaint was the categories had too many articles to wade through, we completly overhauled the structure. Then the complaint was there were too many categories to go through. So we simplified the clickpath so it was easier to get through the categories, but then they complained that it was too many clicks.
You have to understand, we have 1000s of articles. There is no easy way to structure things so that it is all easy to get to. And frankly, that is why search engines were invented. To orginize information, to make it easy to find.
So how can I encourage people to use the search box on the site more? For their own benefit?
Well, the one thing you didn't mention is how your search box appears.
(1) Is it exactly where users expect to find it (i.e., the top-right of the page)?
(2) Is it very easy to pick out of the layout?
(3) Is it accompanied by helpful text like "search" or "search this site"?
You also don't say by what mechanism your users are complaining. Are they going to your contact page? If so, does your contact page have a <select> menu where the user can choose why they're writing, and is "I can't find something on the site" one of the reasons? (At which point you have an opportunity to educate them about the search box.)
I think I'd start by using a heat map tool like CrazyEgg to find out how people are using your site to see if it's a simple design problem.
If it were mine, I would put the search box near the category list, probably right above it labelled "Find an article" or something similar. Don't bury it off to the side in the upper right where LOGIN is typically done. Right above the category list or site nav on the lft would be my suggestion. Make search very dominant.
If they're complaining on a contact page, put something on that page: "Having trouble finding something? Use our search..."
Or you could do a Google and whack the search box front and centre, with virtually nothing around it.
I personally wouldn't, but it's an option!
Yes, but I half wonder if they get "search blindness" like they get "ad blindness"
|(1) Is it exactly where users expect to find it (i.e., the top-right of the page)? |
Not so much and I am planning on testing to highlight it in different colors to get it to stand out.
|(2) Is it very easy to pick out of the layout? |
Of course, but some suggestions on what people might feel would be best to try out would be appreciated. :)
|(3) Is it accompanied by helpful text like "search" or "search this site"? |
Now that is something I had not thought to try before. It makes sense though. Place it near where they seem to be drawn to go.
|I would put the search box near the category list, probably right above it labelled "Find an article" |
Thanks all for the suggestions! More is always appreciated. :D