Published November 30th, 2009 in Web Development
Site search functionality is extremely important for ecommerce websites, especially larger ones. In order for the site to make sales, visitors must be able to find what they are looking for as effectively as possible. While many shoppers will prefer to use the standard navigation on the site, searches are very common from visitors who aren’t able to quickly find what they want.
In this article we’ll take an in-depth look at the trends in site searches of ecommerce websites, and plenty of examples will be included for each point. Of course, not all of these points are going to be relevant to every ecommerce site, but it should help to serve as a guide to those who are designing and developing ecommerce sites.
1. Located at the Top of the Page
The most common location for a site search on ecommerce sites is at the top of the page, and generally on the right side. Many ecommerce sites have a site search, user login, and shopping cart info all located in the same general area. Keeping the site search in a location that is pretty common will help it to be easier to find for some of your visitors who are accustomed to this trend.
2. Near Main Navigation
In addition to being located at the top of the page, many ecommerce sites have the site search near the main navigation menu. Many of these sites use a horizontal menu below the header but above the content, and the site search is generally nearby. Having the search located close to the navigation may make it easier to find for visitors who have been using the navigation menu but are unable to find specifically what they are looking for.
3. Magnifying Glass Icon
Well-chosen icons are effective because they help visitors to quickly know something without reading text. A magnifying glass icon is commonly used for search purposes (not just on ecommerce sites), so they are frequently used to help make the site search a little easier to identify. In some cases there may be a field for the site search, a field to sign up for a newsletter, and fields to login, so using an icon can help to make the search field stand out from the others.
4. Search Suggestions
Since the goal of the site search is to help visitors find what they are looking for, it can improve the process by suggesting terms that will help them to get results. Search suggestions are used by many search engines and some ecommerce sites have implemented this for their site searches as well. The visitor will start typing and the suggestions will appear with the intent of giving them a better chance of using the right term or phrase that will get results.
5. Search by Text or Product ID
Most site searches on ecommerce sites can be used to search for a product by a keyword or phrase, or they can be used to look up an item by product number or ID. When keyword or phrase searches are performed a results page will be shown with the various matches, but in most cases when an ID number is used it will take the searcher directly to the product detail page (if there is a direct match) rather than to a search results page.
6. Option to Search Only Certain Categories
Particularly for larger sites, narrowing down the criteria for search can make it easier to find the right items and can help to eliminate unwanted search results. Some ecommerce site searches will allow the visitor to specify a department or category that they want to search, and the results will only show items that fit. For example, rather than searching an entire department store a visitor may be able to search only in kids clothing.
7. User-Controlled Display Options
Once the search has been performed the results will be displayed, but there is still some work involved to help the visitor find the right items. A growing number of ecommerce sites are giving searchers options in how they want the results to be displayed. This may help to cater to the preferences of the visitor. One approach that is commonly seen is to give the visitor the option of viewing the search results in list or grid format. Another option may involve the size of the thumbnail images, which could impact the number of rows and columns in a grid display. These options may not impact the results of the search in terms of which products are displayed, but it can help to make it more usable and comfortable for the visitor.
8. Option to Compare Products
One of the reasons that shopping online is so popular is the convenience and the ability to quickly compare products. Some ecommerce sites make it especially easy by offering a “compare products” option on the search results. A visitor may have an entire page of search results, but they can quickly compare a few products to each other to help them make the right decision.
9. Option to View All or to Change Number of Products Per Page
Each site search results page will display a certain number of items by default. In most cases there will be an option that allows the visitor to choose how many items can be viewed per page, or to see all of the results on one page. This can help to avoid the need to click through to many different pages to see the results.
10. “Sort By” Options
It’s extremely common for searches on ecommerce sites to allow the visitor to determine how the results should be sorted. typical options include best selling to worst selling, price high to low, price low to high, by date of arrival, etc.
11. Options to Narrow Results
After the search has been done, if there is a large number of results it may help the visitor to narrow or filter the results. An example would be to filter the results by size. This can help to keep the results more relevant to the visitor that is performing the search, and to get rid of the clutter of unwanted search results.
12. “Add to Cart” Option from Search Results
Some ecommerce sites will include a “buy now” or “add to cart” link right on the search results page. If a searcher knows that this is the right item he or she will not have to click through to the product detail page in this case.
13. Quick View Option
Typically, the links from the search results page will lead to a product detail page that will provide all of the relevant info to the visitor. However, some sites are using an optional quick view that will open a modal window with basic info about the product, and usually an “add to cart” option. The modal window allows the visitor the opportunity to see more information about the product without leaving the search results page and without the need to load a new page.
What Trends Have You Noticed?
Are there additional search trends for ecommerce sites that haven’t been mentioned here? Feel free to share you suggestions and feedback in the comments.
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