More Fundamentals for a Quality Search

Last week I wrote about why a quality search function is so important to your web site. This week I’d like to examine standards for advanced search functionality and the presentation of search results.

Advanced Search

  1. The advanced search box should be larger than the basic search box because people will want to do more elaborate search queries (approximately 30 characters).

  2. A “Help” link on how to use the advanced search functionality should be provided. This link should be close to the “Search” button.
  3. In addition to the option of using the Boolean operators AND/OR in the advanced search query box, the reader should be given radio button options that allow matches on “any word,” “all words,” and “precise phrase.” This is because many readers don’t understand how to use AND/OR syntax correctly.
  4. Advanced search should allow people to fully exploit the metadata collected on the content. For example, if date, country, product type, and author metadata were collected, then people should be able to refine their search based on these metadata.

Displaying Search Results

  1. The search results page should avoid showing anything that does not directly relate to the search in question because this can confuse and distract people while they are carrying out what is a very specific activity.

  2. The search results page should use a single-column layout.
  3. The number of documents found should be displayed between the top search box and the actual results.
  4. Search results should show results in order of relevance.
  5. In the case of an advanced search, present the basic search box at the top of the search results and at the bottom (the advanced search environment tends to have a lot of features and takes up a lot of space on the screen). If possible, this basic search box should contain the advanced search choices that were made.
  6. The search keyword(s) used in the search process should be displayed in the search box.
  7. Search results should not show duplicate entries of content. This includes multiple URLs pointing to the same piece of content.
  8. Each search result should be laid out as follows:
    • The searched-for word or phrase should be highlighted (bolded) in the result.

    • The title of the document should be displayed, hyperlinked, and in 10-point font.
    • All other text should be in 8-point font.
    • Show a two-line summary of the document.
    • The URL for the document should be displayed unlinked on a separate line.
    • The classification under which the document can be found should appear last, hyperlinked. It should be preceded by the word “classification” and should link through to the final classification presented.
  9. The search results should be broken down into batches of 10.
  10. There should be a set of links to the other batches at the end of each batch of results up to the 10th batch (e.g., 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10). The first batch should not be hyperlinked. It can be in a different color to show readers that this is where they currently are.
  11. When readers click on the 10th batch, they should be presented with a 1-20 set of batches at the bottom of the page (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20). When they click on the 20th batch, they should be shown 10-30 and so on in rolling batches of 20.
  12. “Next” and “Previous” links should be provided. “Next” links you to the next page, and “Previous” to the previous page.
  13. The document selected by the reader from the search results should show the reader’s query text selected within the document, allowing the reader to determine the relevance of that document to his or her query.

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