The features that your site’s search function should have

Piranha Designs - Friday, March 09, 2018

If you were online in the late 1990s or early 2000s, you may remember Ask Jeeves, which was a search engine that in many ways, presaged what Google and other search titans today attempt to do: provide a useful response to specific user questions, instead of merely keywords.

It was certainly a compelling concept in its day – the eponymous ‘Jeeves’, by the way, being a gentleman character based on the fictional valet of P. G. Wodehouse character Bertie Wooster.

The character used to appear on the site’s homepage, but the delivery of the question-and-answer functionality was as clunky as you might expect given the times, and Jeeves himself was sent into retirement in 2006.

But with all of the design and technology innovations that have happened since, there’s now a lot more scope for the modern online business owner to ensure their own site’s search function produces robust and relevant results. Here are some of those that we would suggest.

Spelling assistance

Imagine how time-consuming and laborious it would be to manually input all of the conceivable ways in which a given search term could be misspelled. This feature, then, has to be something that can intelligently understand potential user mistakes by itself.

Automatic filtering of common conjunctions and articles

Conjunctions like “and”, “or” and “but”, as well as articles such as “the”, “a” and “an”, can be filtered out of users’ searches, unless one of these words is part of the name of a product.

Alternative words, aka “Did you mean?”

Shoppers may not know the exact terms used in the name of the product they are looking for, or may not understand the correct meanings of certain words. Whatever the situation, incorporating this function into your site search helps to prevent you missing out on sales.

The ability to enter alternative terms yourself

While we made the point above that an intelligent search feature should be able to accommodate many alternative spellings or terms that a user may enter, this work can’t be solely left to the search tool. After all, new alternative phases gain popularity all of the time, and you will be able to identify these through search data, so it helps to be able to incorporate them into your search feature.

Relevant recommendations

It does happen, from time to time, that a user enters a term that delivers zero results. In such a situation, rather than your site presenting your user with a largely blank ‘sorry’ page, you might want to ensure other products or categories are presented to them to increase the likelihood of a sale.

These aren’t the only key features that are incorporated into the most sophisticated search functions of today’s ecommerce stores. When you turn to the team here at Piranha Designs for our custom website design services, you can discuss with us in more detail what form your own site’s search feature could take.

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