Mobile search continues to rise in markets around the world. The International Telecoms Union predicts that there will be more mobile subscriptions than there are people in the world by the end of this year. Of course, many of these represent multiple subscriptions, but clearly small screens are big business. Only 33 percent of mobile users make it past the first page of a mobile site, so it’s important to present important information clearly and prominently, and to make the act of searching your site as simple and streamlined as possible.
Don’t Make Your Customers Search for the Search Box
The single most important tool for navigating around your site should be a clearly recognizable search box located in a prominent position. Installing a site search feature allows visitors to go straight to the relevant product or part of your site without having to work their way through various menus and navigation bars. It can also be useful to include the search box on all subsequent pages, negating the need to return to your home or landing page if they want to search again.
Keep Your Design Simple
Mobile-optimized sites should be clear and concise, with the relevant information and features clearly marked. People will often be interacting with the tip of a finger, so avoid text links and small clickable hot spots in favor of larger, clearly marked buttons.
When people are searching for information, particularly on mobile, they want to land on the information or item they are looking for with as few actions as possible. Typing can also be trickier on the smaller, usually touch-driven interfaces of mobile devices. Autocomplete allows you to suggest relevant terms based on the first few letters entered by the user.
Another option is autosuggest, which suggests alternative products based on what the visitor has already searched for or viewed. Well-known e-commerce sites such as Amazon and eBay do this. The retailer Deb Shops reported a 20 percent increase in adds to cart for users exploring with a “More Like This…” feature.
Don’t be too obtrusive with autosuggest, though, especially on a small mobile screen. Users still want to choose products themselves, but a helpful nudge in the right direction can be seen as just that.
Use Infinite Scrolling
Mobile users don’t want to pour through too many different pages to find what they are looking for. With infinite scrolling, more results are loaded automatically when the user gets close to the end of the page. This can negate the need for further typing or flicking through pages of results, waiting for each one to load. It also makes it easier for the user to scroll back up to another result if they want to revisit it or compare details.
Search results are usually best displayed in a single column that is optimized to fit the width of the mobile device’s screen. As a rule of thumb, this is usually the best option for all your content, as it prevent users having to scroll from side to side to find what they’re searching for.
Make Use of Location Technology
A significant proportion of mobile searches are locational by nature. People are often searching on the go and want to find products or services where they are. You can make use of GPS technology to provide relevant information and results based on the user’s current location. If you have stores, for example, you could include a locator that provides details of your stores based on distance from the user.
Push Your Promotions
If you have a product or item on sale, it makes sense to push it when appropriate to do so. When visitors search for a brand name or product that is on sale, include a keyword-driven banner at the top of the search results to emphasize your promotion. As it is keyword-driven, this item will be relevant to the user, meaning they get a potential bargain and you get to present your promotion without appearing overly pushy, intrusive, or irrelevant.
Improving mobile search interaction is all about getting the relevant information to the user in as clear and simple a way as possible. If you can do this successfully, then you’ll keep them coming back.