If you’ve been assigned to design or provide the architecture for a large e-commerce project or other information-heavy website whose success depends on content findability, it is vital that the design and layout of the search functionality for that website is considered carefully.
The search results page is the prime focus of the search experience, and can make or break a site’s conversion rates. Therefore, bridging the gap between a user and the content or products they seek is a crucial factor in the success of any large website. The responsibility to design an effective search results page is best considered after a thorough examination of some of the features and functions found on search results pages from a number of popular niches.
In this article, we’ll look at a number of trends and practices incorporated on a variety of websites. From this examination, we’ll conclude with a summary of the best practices learned from the examples those sites have set.
1. Trends In Search Engines
Google’s search result page sets the pattern for all the search result pages we’ll be considering. We’ll list the primary features of Google’s page, and then we’ll point out some additional unique features found on other search results pages, including those found on the other popular search engines.
Below are the primary features of Google’s search results page:
- Search box, with searched words, remains prominent at top
- Option to view an “advanced” search page
- Total number of results shown at top
- Ajax-driven auto-complete for typed follow-up searches
- Sponsored links at top and right
- Paginated results
- Results titles are large, bold, and hyperlinked
- Searched words are shown in bold in a page snippet, in context
- URLs shown in a different color under each result
- Each result allows options to view “similar” and “cached”
- Visited links are in a different color
- Related search phrases listed at bottom
- Search box with search terms repeated at the bottom
- “Show options” link opens a sidebar for further filtering of the results
In the search engine niche, the other websites we’re considering follow very similar patterns as those set above by Google, with a few variations. Here are some unique features of those search results pages that are not found on Google’s.
Microsoft’s new search engine Bing lists the user’s “search history” in the sidebar (outlined in red above), allowing the history to be cleared or turned off. The search history remains intact even when the browser is closed and the page is revisited.
Another helpful feature on Bing is shown below:
The pagination unit at the bottom of the results page is more user-friendly than Google’s version. While Google’s version consists of “blocked” table cells, which somewhat help the clickability of these units, Bing’s is much cleaner and a clearer distinction is made between paginated units. Also improving the usability, Bing’s pagination units have a hover effect, which Google’s doesn’t, making Google’s confusing as to which unit is being clicked.