Having your very own search engine for your site will enable your
visitors to quickly and easily find just what they are looking for, without having to
navigate through numerous menus or wade through long lists of options. Your users can just
type in a few keywords for what interests them, and within seconds they
are shown to the exact pages on your website that are relevant.
Usability studies show us that more than half of all web users are search-dominant,
meaning that they will go straight to the search box when they enter your site, rather
than try to find information following your navigation links. They are not interested in
looking around the site but rather in finding what they want as fast as possible.
That is why, if your site has a large number of pages or covers a wide variety of
topics, we recommend that you set up a search engine for your site. There are several
services that offer free search engines that allow your visitors to search your site. The
two we have tried are FreeFind ( http://www.freefind.com
) and Google ( http://www.google.com/searchcode.html
). Both of them are free and worth a try. I have also heard great things about Atomz
( http://www.atomz.com ) although I haven't tried it
Freefind is a great option, particularly because you can select your
desired indexing frequency. This means that if you update your site weekly or even daily,
you can instruct Freefind's spider to crawl your site with that same frequency, so that
all your pages are indexed (added to the database) as often as you update your site.
Aside from that, you can index up to 3,000 average-size pages with your free account,
which is more than enough for most websites. Also, Freefind automatically
generates a site map for your site; a site map is a great tool to help
your visitors navigate your site, and to quickly allow the search engines to pick up all
your pages when they crawl your site.
Google also has a free feature that allows you to get a search engine
for your site, which will give your visitors the option of searching the web or only your
site. However, this feature has its drawbacks. The main one is that only pages that are
already in Google's database will be displayed in the results, and you can't instruct Google
to crawl your site at your desired frequency. Instead, you will have to wait until Google
crawls the web (usually once a month) before more of your pages can be added to Google's
database. Therefore, Google is a good option if most of your pages are
already indexed and you don't update your site that often.
We recommend that you follow these guidelines when setting Search on your site:
Make the search function easily available from every page on your site.
Try to include a search box in the page itself, instead of just a text
link that takes to a search page. The search box shape is easily recognizable and users
will find it much faster than a text link. If you don't want to use a search box in all
your pages, use a search box in your homepage and a link to the search page from your
Place the search box in a consistent an easy to find location across
your site. Based on the observation of numerous important websites, the preferred location
for the search box seems to be the top right corner of the page.
Try to make the search box wide enough (between 20 and 25 characters)
to accommodate longer queries.
Label the search button next to the search box with the word "Search"
(no need to get too fancy or creative with phrases like "Take me there" or
"Go!". Keep it simple.)
Finally, please note that installing search functionality is no excuse for designing a
poor navigation architecture (don't forget the other half of your
visitors, who are likely to follow links rather than search). Users
want to know where they are within your website at all times, and like to find their way
around easily. The best way to enable this is:
To have few but clear navigation options (no need to
include links to all your pages from all your pages)
To group your navigation options by subject, and
To include a "breadcrumb trail" next to the top of the page,
where you can show your visitors the complete path to the current page, starting with your
homepage (for example: home -> archive -> June 03 -> Web Design Tips ).
You can freely reprint this article. Just include the following resource box at
Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest ( http://www.theinternetdigest.net
), an online collection of web design and Internet marketing articles and resources.
You can freely reprint his weekly articles in your website, ezine, newsletter or