To search or not to search - Finding website content

Thursday, 3 November 2011

One of the things that always seems to crop up when speaking to clients about web design projects is them asking for a search on their website. But should a search be put on all websites by default?

When we talk about a site search we are referring to one that searches all the content on every page of a website.

Our usual answer is: “Its horses for courses.”

If you have a 5 page brochure style site then there is little point in having a search as people should clearly be able to see what sections there are and what information is available.

Even a 50 page site, if structured correctly should lead people easily to the content they require.

We have always found that a site search would usually return non-specific results as it's searching through reams of content. For example on an engineering site with, say 50 pages, searching for the word wrench may return 40 pages, including about us, contact us, testimonials, as it's likely a word that is mentioned throughout the content for SEO purposes. Whereas simply clicking on Products > Wrenches from the navigation would likely get you straight to what you are looking for.

The only time when we would recommend a search on a website is when:

1. The site has a large database of products such as a site like Yes you can browse through the categories, but sometimes you just want to get straight to an actual item. This does not search the static site content, just the database so any results will be relevant.

2. A large article based site where you cannot browse to all the information and you have to rely on the search to find older content, for example

If a site is well organised and designed then there is usually little need to have a full site search as the information should be easily found through the navigation. Keep searches for specific things on the site that search through your database of products or articles to that the results are more targeted and relevant.