Search should be simple

Structuring the navigation well will answer 80% of peoples queries. For everything else, there is search. Good search should be invisible, predictable and accessible.

Design for search results

1 People expect excellence

Search engines in daily use by people generally deliver very good relevancy on their results. People click the first result much more frequently than the following results.

For the most used search keywords, and ones that are important to us, we should choose what the top result is.

2 People expect a list of results

People don't read, they scan information on the web. As such, information density is very important.

We should present search results in a meaningful list, ordered by relevancy, exactly like every other place on the web.

3 Search should be quick, not complicated

There is little evidence users want or need their search results to be grouped and organised so the default should show all the results, ordered by relevance. If grouping is used, it should be through user selectable filter.

A one dimensional list of results, with large titles, a small sample from the article and small category or subject keywords is enough structure for the user to judge relevancy.

4 Relevancy and timeliness

For the content on this site, assuming relevancy can be tweaked and hand-tuned one other sort dimension may be useful: Time

Order by time - to show the most recent article or update on a subject.

5 Look like search results

No need to reinvent the wheel here. Follow the established pattern

Result titles as links in blue, some categories or metadata in green, a description.

Here is an example search results page.

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In research, 42% of users clicked the top search hit, and 8% of users clicked the second hit. When the positions were swapped, people still clicked the top result much more often.

Jakob Nielson's seminal web usability study from 1997 showed that 79% of web users scan rather than read.

Grouped search results could be by type, or category. Default should be all as one list, by relevance

One of the most recognised icons is the magnifying glass to signify Search. We should use this to help people locate the search field.