July 24, 2020

The Science of Browsing: When to Use Navigation vs. Site Search

The rise of website giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter have given the internet world a glimpse at how quickly visitors can find what they are looking for when they know what they want through search. Although, the purpose of these sites enables them to focus mainly on the search functionality and leave basic navigation to provide tastes of popular or trending items for visitors who are unsure of what they want right away.  

For ecommerce sites and online retailers, these fast-moving developments pose a difficult question for how they develop their website to solve UX challenges. How effective can internal site search be on my website? Can navigation be just as effective if the right amount of resources are put into designing? Research tells us that site search is extremely effective and that no online business can reach its full potential in terms of conversion rates (upwards of 200%+ or more) without a well-developed and high-quality search functionality. This does not mean that navigation is not important, instead, this means that the website should be using search to lead to navigation and to intertwine both to function as one.

Different Approaches for Different Needs

Your site should be tailored to fit whatever kind of visitors that will be traveling to your site. For some, this might mean having a small or no search bar at all, because their website is simply for articles or visual experiences such as campaign pages and photography portfolios. For others, as we see with Amazon or LinkedIn, the search bar is prominent and crucial for what they are trying to do, which is to drive customers to go right to the search bar and look for what they want.  For any growing business, however, their website will be containing huge amounts of item data and content, meaning that a customer will have a difficult time finding what they want if they are faced with trying to navigate and filter through data to narrow down the options of what they need. Customers who know what they want will be looking for the search bar immediately upon entering your site.  It is equivalent to a shopper arriving at a store knowing exactly what they want and being able to navigate the store with the signs to lead them. But with a powerful search tool, no signs will be needed. The customer types in what they are looking for, and everything unfolds from there. That is why Amazon and Google have been so successful: they have adapted to the world’s demand for relevant and fast results. Amazon started their website without the search capability, but since implementing and perfecting, they have grown to be the ecommerce giant that they are today.

Why Search Matters

According to the 2018 Comprend’s Web Management Survey, internal search engine use, content management systems, and page speeds are all significantly increasing on a yearly basis. 25% of users will abandon a site if the site does not load within four seconds. Although this piece of data is not about search and its effectiveness, it shows the speed that users expect to receive when trying to find the item they want. For search, that means providing all the features that can be used to improve UX and allow the user to swiftly find what they want.        

Boosting Relevant Topics to Improve Results

Search is about speed. The faster the customer can get to where they want, the more likely they are to buy your product. The more time and effort that the customer must put in to find the product they want, the less likely they will stick around to keep looking. And if they do find it, their experience will have been far less smooth than if a search bar could have delivered the product right to them. So, now that we know how useful a search bar can be, what goes into ensuring that effectiveness? What goes into a well-made, results-delivering search function? Not only will you need an Information Management system to handle all your product data, but within the search bar, you need to provide real-time autocomplete, recommendations, synonyms, etc. Baymard reported, as previously discussed in our blog series, that  82% of the top-grossing ecommerce sites offer autocomplete suggestions to their users as they type in their query. Again, the importance of speed and relevancy is key. All the features implemented within the search tool are designed to lead your customer to the product, instead of allowing them to truly be searching all over your website for one specific product. HawkSearch has every tool you could ask for and more to ensure that your customers are not left dissatisfied. From Machine Learning to Relevant Recommendations, HawkSearch learns from the user’s actions on your site and then adapts.

How Navigation Can Be Used

Search, of course, cannot work alone. HawkSearch does not only work within the search bar. We optimize and adjust results based on what customers are clicking on and how many conversions are taking place on which products. Through these attributes, the search function is feeding into the overall Navigation and making the customer’s experience as seamless as possible.

What this Means for You

Studies done by the Nielsen Norman Group found that more than 50% of people visiting a start page of a website go directly to the search box to begin navigating. Your website needs to combine search and navigation into one, and no longer prioritize navigation without search. Search needs to lead to quick navigation and successful findings. With your business’s success in mind, if you are not fully utilizing the potential behind the search bar, you are risking many people leaving your site regularly, and therefore losing countless conversions and purchases from your website. Do not let that happen.

With HawkSearch, your success is our success and we will be with you all the way. The consumer world is constantly in a state of change, but with our product, your site can adapt and stay up to speed.


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