On-site search or good navigation?

Google has made our lives so much easier: you type something in the search box, and you get awesome results and suggestions. You would think that people on websites probably also use the search engine on your website to find what they are looking for, right? No definitely not! Good navigation is still a must on your website!

But 5% of the visitors use the search function

Did you know that only a supersmall percentage use search engines on websites? It is actually never more than 5% of the visitors who use the search function. And most of the time they only try to find the search function after they have first tried to find it via normal navigation.

Of course, there are always exceptions: For example, consider large websites such as Bol.com. The percentage will be higher there. Because when people search for a specific product they will use the search function more often. However, the search function has been made less prominent on this site in recent years and many more categories have been added.

In addition, we see that website search is often used on mobile because complex navigation often does not work well on mobile devices.

Why it’s better to guide people through navigation

Google has made itself a specialist in search. That’s what they are incredibly good at. The average search on normal websites is often much less good than that!

  1. People often use different words (synonyms) than the ones you have used. Google’s search function often understands that, but websites are usually searched for exact words.
  2. Typos, also something Google is good at. You often get it under “Did you mean …”.

And what also helps is that when people who browse often purchase more than when they only use the search function. When you browse through the navigation, you see many more items than when you search for 1 product directly.

How do you ensure good navigation?

A whole process precedes the design of user-friendly navigation. You can use these guidelines to get started with improving the UX of your navigation.

  1. Find out what people are looking for. And then use those words. Try not to be funny in your navigation or use jargon. When a menu or navigation item does not state clearly what the visitor can expect, they will not click on it as quickly. And in the worst case, it will be completely ignored.
  2. Do not use small or hidden menus on large screens. Although the hamburger on mobile devices is a good choice, you should NOT use it for larger screens. Make sure the menu on the larger screens is immediately and clearly visible.
  3. Provide a breadcrumb path. This way people can see where they are on the website. Certainly, if they arrive on a page other than the homepage, it is easier to orientate for the visitors.
  4. Ensure that the menu structure is as flat as possible. Less is more. But be careful not to leave out too much, you have to find a middle ground somewhere. Incidentally, it is a myth that 7 minus or plus 2 choices must give a visitor!
  5. Place the menu in known places. It’s nice to do something different. But people are used to certain things: so are the locations of the menus. So it’s best not to experiment with a completely different location of a menu than at the top or left side of the page.
  6. Use the footer for extensive navigation. Again a good example of Bol.com which clearly tries to divide its mega quantity of products.
    If you really want to get started with improving the User Experience (UX) of your website, it is wise to get started with a UX survey.

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