November 7, 2019

Making Search Work for Mobile Users

Search is an integral part of the mobile experience. Whether searching for restaurant reviews on Yelp, researching product prices while at a retail store, or Googling details on a celebrity to settle a debate amongst friends, people are constantly using their phones to find specific information. An on-site search engine that’s not designed with those users in mind, will fall flat.  

Designing a search for mobile isn’t always easy

Mobile search design and mobile UX design as a whole present some unique challenges. For starters, mobile devices are limited in the amount of results that they can show due to screen size. Designers often have to get creative to build out a navigable mobile site. Plus, speed is the name of the game when it comes to user behavior on mobile devices. Visitors are often looking to get their information as efficiently as possible and site abandonment can be exceptionally high for these users.  Despite all of these challenges, creating a great mobile search experience can do wonders for your website. Here are four best practices to employ when designing mobile search.

1. Make the search bar prominent and easily found

One of the first things to consider when improving mobile search experience is the search bar. A good search bar is prominent and easy for users to immediately find and interact with. When searching, users often look for a wide, empty text field at the top of the page or a magnifying glass icon. If you have the room, consider displaying both. Icon-only search often makes users click more than once to begin their search which increases the cost of interaction. Don’t make your users work for their search results, make it as easy as possible.  

2. Implement search suggestions

A key component in mobile UX design is the idea of reducing the amount of mental and physical effort a site visitor must do to perform an action. Well, there aren’t many online actions that take more effort than site search. When searching, users must not only come up with a query, they must also type it in a way that a search engine will understand. On top of that, typing on a touch screen is time consuming and typos are frequently a concern. To make things easier, implement search suggestions and predictive text to provide immediate results. Search suggestions that appear after a user type 3 or 4 characters, can significantly reduce clicks, plus, relevant search suggestions show a user that they are in the right place (your website!) for their specific query.  

3. Offer relevant search results  

As mentioned above, space constraints make the number of results a user can see on mobile extremely limited. For some sites, especially those reliant on product images, as few as four results even appear without scrolling. Because of this, results must be highly relevant and accurate.  Fine tuning results based on common keywords and synonyms can work wonders. Search platforms like HawkSearch have added machine learning and use information on user demographics and past searches to further refine results. At the end of the day, users want to be able to find what they need on your site fast. Relevancy is key to a mobile audience.  

4. Don’t neglect navigation  

Search is vital for mobile and it works well for users with well-defined goals and a good understanding of the information they’re searching for. However, navigation needs to be a part of your strategy if your site is going to see any amount of success. Sites that integrate added navigation into search results can help users find what they need even faster. Category landing pages, for example, can give a user a good idea of the type of content available to them.  Facets can go even further by allowing a visitor to drill down to a specific brand, size, or content type to find what they need. All of these added navigational tools can ease the amount of stress on a mobile user and help them get where they’re going.  

Optimized search can be a powerful tool for any mobile website. Take these tips and take a look at your own site’s search tool. For more information on HawkSearch, schedule a one-on-one demo with us today.


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