On-site search is a powerful way to identify and meet the needs of your users for a better digital user experience.
One of the most valuable digital tools your organization can offer is a robust on-site search function. When done properly, on-site search can provide powerful insight into your users’ needs and help you tailor content to meet those needs. By focusing on three key areas, you can improve the value of your on-site search implementation:
1. Consider how your users search and the kinds of questions they ask
With or without artificial intelligence (AI) powered on-site search functionality, documenting frequently asked questions is an essential first step. Once you have a list of frequently asked questions, your next step will depend on the technology you have access to. If your site leverages a tool like XAPP AI, you can set the model to train and automatically identify the different variations of the questions that might be asked. Alternatively, you can manually document different variations of the way those questions might be asked. For instance, someone might type, “what are your hours” or “what time are you open” – both variations of the question will likely leverage the same content for the response. That brings us to our next step, which is necessary no matter the technology in place: you’ll need to ensure that content containing the answers can be found and delivered as a part of any response.
2. Break down silos and connect related data
Silos are a common source of inefficiency in data architectures. Imagine you’re looking for pricing on a specific service provided by a vendor but the information is buried deep within an index of services, and contradictory pricing information is showing up in a separate file owned by the Sales team. This kind of error is easy to make when your organization lacks an integrated view of its data.
The good news is that there are ways to break down silos and connect related data across multiple systems. Like the first step, this can be accomplished manually or with the support of AI to speed things up and keep it updated consistently moving forward. The end goal is an interconnected single source of truth that quickly returns accurate information. In this way, you can optimize the organization’s ability to leverage information from existing sources without creating new ones.
3. Optimize for both mobile devices and desktop
While traffic splits between mobile and desktop visitors will vary by website, it’s safe to assume that every website will see some traffic from both. That means that you’ll need to prepare to give both groups of visitors a good on-site search experience. No matter what device they’re using, users expect the same search quality on both experiences. On a desktop, users have more screen real estate and processing power to use; they can also rely on faster connections. On a mobile device you’ll need to optimize your site so it can quickly render information with limited processing power and slower connectivity.
The user experience is different between these two platforms as well: there’s less emphasis on browsing products in their entirety; instead, it’s all about getting information fast. When it comes to architecting your on-site search experience, keep the user’s context and objective in mind. Wherever possible, offer up answers to questions rather than links to try and find the answer. If images or videos are available, make sure that there’s a less resource intensive option available, like a video summary description, that can load more quickly on slower connections and mobile devices.
Bonus Tip: Use on-site search data to help you identify user pain points.
Over time, you can use search data to understand how your users search and the kinds of questions they ask. As you learn more, consider implementing new features that make it easier for them to find what they want. For instance, if there’s information frequently sought out that can be presented earlier in a user journey, consider moving it to a new page or increasing the visual prominence. If the fix works, over time you would expect to see less searches for that information.A good website experience should continue to evolve over time to meet the ever changing needs of your users. On-site search is a powerful tool that can help you monitor those needs as they change over time.
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