Here's why in-site
search engines typically don't work:
don't work. Redundant? Not really. Despite what you
may think, the odds actually are very low that your
shopper's search is going to give them what they’re
looking for. And if it doesn’t, they’re gone. As Larry
Constantine, Director of Research & Development at
Constantine & Lockwood, Ltd., says,
the research on searching is both clear and
consistent. If a visitor uses a site-based search
engine, their chances of finding what they are
seeking, even given that it is on the site, are
drastically reduced. Jared Spool has found that using
the search box can cut a visitor's chance of success
in half. In other words, if, instead of searching,
visitors stay with browsing and follow links, they are
twice as likely to find what they seek. The
implications of this for the design of e-business
sites are enormous."
you call it isn't what they call it.
The other day, I was trying to find this neat kid-friend
of mine one of those clicker thingies baseball umps use to
keep track of balls, strikes and outs. Being Martian, I
didn't know what it was called, but on dozens of sites I
tried "clicker," "counter,"
"score keeper," and a variety of other
possibilities. Every search engine attempt was fruitless.
I wound up finding one only because one site included a
listing of their categories. Under "umpire gear"
they had "indicators!" If refining a search
takes repeated attempts to get the right word, how
persistent do you think most customers are going to be
before they click away to one of your competitors?
software doesn't think like your software.
To use any search function properly, you have to think
like the programming behind it and come up with an
effective search query. Get the wrong parameters and you
get no results. Make your search too narrow and you don't
find what you're looking for; too broad, and you're
overwhelmed with more results than you can shake a stick
at. Either way, from the customer's point of view, the
easiest thing to do is say sayonara!
need an Advanced Search Option?
When the simple search produces nothing, maybe it's time
to make the customer perform another click and load up yet
another page. Ha! (You knew I was kidding, right?) What
that amounts to is an illogical form of punishment.
Remember, anytime you involve your visitor in the “system,”
that visitor is not shopping! And for the average shopper
advanced search options are hard to understand - and they
generate bad results, too. What you get is a shopper who
is confused and frustrated and maybe even feeling stupid
that they somehow don’t know what they’re doing -
definitely not the right feeling for a satisfying customer
your visitors don't arrive at your site thinking,
"Boy, I really hope there's a search box on the home
page for me!" In fact, most of your visitors only
turn to a searching feature when all else fails them. And
when that fails them, too, you’ve lost them.
about how you use a store.
When you first enter, do you make a bee-line for the
information booth or seek out the first available sales
person? I'd bet you don't. Even if you have a good idea
what you want, you walk in, look around, get a feel for
the place, right? You begin to move in a direction,
looking for cues, reading signs … in short, you are
shopping, in the broadest sense.
customer-centered e-tailer knows this and also knows the
best available searching mechanism ever invented is the
human eye-brain combination known as "visual
scanning." Everybody does it (whether or not they
are aware of it), and it is always the first line of
attack. Bolded or highlighted
text, vertically-aligned lists, A-Z site indexes,
site-maps, a logical progression of links and pages - if
these are intelligently and thoughtfully employed, they
easily can handle almost every customer’s searching
not sold? Dying to include an in-site search engine? Then
do it right:
the searching function to your information. Don't use
generic applications. It is worth the time and trouble
to tailor-make your engine.
human psychology to the extent you can anticipate the
nature of their queries and include every possibility in
users to qualify or constrain their searches with
additional check boxes or drop-downs (default the most
the use of synonyms and equivalents, and for very large
sites, it helps to "establish an internal glossary
of terms and a thesaurus that maps equivalents."
include in-site search (or any other feature) just because
it’s possible. Include it only if it is the best
possible answer to what your customer needs. And always
remember, most of your shoppers aren’t programmers.
click here for a printable version of this whole article
Driving Traffic to Your Site: A Little Horse Sense
bet you read a lot of stuff about e-commerce. I sure do.
Most articles I find out there are about marketing on the
web: how to advertise effectively with banners and click-throughs,
how to promote yourself through e-mail and newsletters,
how to succeed in driving lots of consumer traffic to your
site. And who isn't trying to attract customers and build
the bottom line? But every time I read this stuff, I start
thinking about horses: how you can lead them to water but
can't make them drink, and how you shouldn't go putting
carts before them.
going to keep this one short and sweet. Before you go
blowing your marketing budget (and more) on increasing
traffic to your site, make sure your best dollars have
gone into designing and maintaining a site that isn't
going to be a dead-end for your traffic. First take
care of what your customer wants: simple
navigation, a sense of security, easy and intuitive
processes, lots of help, great customer service … a comfortable,
familiar, delightful shopping experience!
horse before the cart, and those horses will be much more
inclined to drink the water you've led them to.