Search results: layout tips

Most surfers only use a site’s search feature if they can’t find what they’re looking for via the navigation or the homepage. That means most people are already slightly irritated the moment they start searching.

Making sure the page with search results helps people find what they’re looking for fast is very important. With these tips you’ll see a dramatic drop in the number of people who leave your site on a search results page.

Leave the search box where it is

Leave the search box alone. Don’t move it and don’t put an extra search box at the top of the results page either. That only confuses people. If you put the search box in the right place to start with, it’s fine where it is.

Leave the search word(s) in the search box

Don’t remove the search words from the search box. If you leave the search words in the search box, it’s easy for people to refine their search or correct spelling mistakes.

Give clear feedback

Put a sentence at the top of each results page that says how many results there are and repeat the search word(s). Use a sentence like “Your search for x has delivered y results”. Obviously, you should also do this if there are no results.

Per result: title and description

Present the results as a bulleted lists with per result:

  • Clickable page title.
  • Short description of the page. This description starts on a new line en is ideally between 150 to 200 characters.

Both the page title and the description are important tools to help people find what they’re looking for fast.

At least 20 results per page

Show at least 20 results per page. Most surfers won’t click through to the second page of search results. But they will (within reason) scroll down on the first page of results. If you show 20 results instead of 10, they are twice more likely to find a result they like.

More than 20 results?

Put a clickable overview of the number of results pages at the bottom of every results page, like Google does. That way people can surf from results page 1 to 5 without having to pass by all the pages in between. Start the clickable page overview with a link ‘Previous’ (except on the first page) and end it with a link ‘Next’ (except on the last page).

Clickability

Respect the rules of clickability:

  • Underline links and put them in a different, easily legible colour.
  • Put visited links in a different, less bright colour than links that haven’t been clicked yet.  That makes it easy for people to see which links he has alreday clicked. Unintentionally clicking the same link twice is very frustrating.  

Cut the c**p

Don’t bore people with how many pages were searched or how many milliseconds the search took. They don’t care. Just make sure the search works as fast as possible and put the most relevant results at the top.


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