January 21st, 2009 | Published in Google Enterprise
Search is at the heart of Google - that's why it's at the heart of our homepage.
When you set up Google Site Search on your website, you have the flexibility to plug in a search box however and wherever you want. Whether you opt to put search in the middle of your homepage, in a corner, or off to the side, it's important that you do what works for you - but there are so many possibilities!
To help guide your decisions, here are a few design tips based on our experience and conversations with customers:
- Make your search box easy to find. People don't like to have to search for search! Show pride in your search and put it front and center - or at the very least, make sure it's immediately visible when visitors arrive at your site. Check out retrospect.com for a great example.
- Make sure search is always available. The sun should never set on your search box. As visitors navigate across your site, your search box should be accessible at all times. This will ensure visitors can explore all that your site has to offer, and instantly seek out the pages they need.
- Customize the appearance of search to fit your site. Think of your search box as the ambassador of all the pages beyond your homepage. You want to greet visitors with a search box that shares the same design principles and colors they'll encounter throughout your site - it doesn't have to look just like Google!
- Experiment. For many, it makes sense to keep it simple: one box, one search button. If you have distinct categories of information, though, it may be worthwhile to try adding buttons to help visitors narrow their searches right from the get-go. You may even want to add your own "I'm feeling lucky" button.
- Be open to feedback. It's important to do what's right by your users. As you design and position your search box, it can never hurt to ask for thoughts. Use this as an opportunity to ask for user feedback generally about your site. One other piece of advice: keep it fun! Offer a t-shirt, or a search trophy - you can even use a Google Spreadsheet Form to make collecting feedback quick and easy.
- Learn what users are looking for. Though we are relentless in our pursuit of a perfect search, we realize there's a lot to gain from user feedback and interaction. Often if a user doesn't immediately find what they're looking for, it has to do with the particular keywords they're using, and how these words relate to your site. To help get users where they're going, it's always good to provide a 'Didn't find what you were looking for?' link at the bottom of your search results to allow your site visitors to contact you. Additionally, Google Analytics can help you track what users are searching for at a macro-level, and what they are and aren't finding in the process.
- Let visitors know who's got your back. It's entirely up to you, but we've heard that if you add a "Powered by Google" logo next to your search bar, visitors are more likely to use search to find what they're looking for.
Hungry for more? Check out this great article from Smashing Magazine, which walks step-by-step through a variety of design options when implementing search on your website.
We'd love to get your feedback, more tips, or notes on what's worked. Let us know.