It's common knowledge that when using a website most website visitors prefer using an on-site search component as opposed to an overbearing navigation menu. Searching is believed to be the primary way to provide visitors with exactly the content that they are looking for. If implemented correctly, an internal site search can provide a nice boost to the overall user experience a site visitor. If implemented poorly, it can also quickly increase the bounce rate of the initial landing page.
In this blog post series I am going to show you, in only a matter of minutes, how to create a better search experience than what the out of the box configuration provides. The impressive part of this solution is that it also utilizes additional out of the box functionality that I feel most Kentico users and developers are not aware of.
Should I Care About Search Experience?
There are also number of potential benefits that a heavily used on-site search can give to website owners. Search bars generate real valuable user data. When a visitor performs a search, that query gives insight into what information that visitor is looking for. This opens the door for personalizing that visitors experience because you know what they are trying to find. Collecting these actual search queries for what visitors are hoping to find might also help re-structure your main call to actions, content strategies, and overall site structure. Just tracking the pure amount of search queries over time is also a nice indicator of your overall websites health and growth forecasts.
Creating a positive search experience for visitors should be a goal of any new website implementation project. Most Kentico sites have a site search component in them thanks to the powerful Smart Search engine that Kentico has built in. However, some Kentico sites have search results pages that look pretty plain and have little filtering and sorting capability.
Pro Tip: Did you know that Kentico 8 has predictive search completely built-in now? Well it does, and it works well.
The Before & After
In order to improve the out of the box solution it is important to know where that solution starts. Below is a screen shot of the new Kentico 8.2 demo site and its responsive search result page when searching for the word coffee. It's a pretty vanilla set of results. However, it is worth noting that the new demo site does customize the display of the search result based on what kind of content the result item is. For example a product result shows the product title, type, and price. An article result shows different fields. So it does make it easy to pick out what kind of result you are looking for. Again decent job, but not great.
As you can see it does a good job of presenting some product based results that have a strong relevant match for the search query. Implementing this page is a very simple task for any Kentico developer. Once you generate a Smart search index and choose which content to index, you only need to drag and drop the Smart Search Results web part on the page template. From there you can configure the transformation to style the results in pretty much any way you like. However, there is room for improvement.
To cut right to the chase, the following screen shot shows off what can easily be done by simply adding and configuring a few more web parts onto the page template. That's right you can indeed create a faceted search results page in Kentico 8.
As you can see the search result page now has a way to filter down the results by content type, document tag, keyword text, and a date rage filter of when it was created. Choosing any of the filters on the left hand sidebar will automatically narrow down the search results to just what that user is looking for.
Faceted Isn't the Only Way to Improve Search Experience
What about helping out those people, who like me, have fat fingers and can’t spell to save their life. Well Kentico has a web part for that too. Try dropping in the Did you mean? web part. It will automatically give you a recommended search term if you misspell something. This works from the spelling word dictionaries that are already a part of your site. And it works fast.
Clicking on the search term refreshes the page with the updated term, just like Google does. I really thought it would be more work to hook this web part up to a service or API call, but no it just works without any effort. In this day and age web site visitors expect a level of search like this. You don't even need to configure any properties of the web part. Just literally drag and drop it on the page template.
I really feel that by adding web parts like Smart search filters and the Did you mean web part, the search results functionality on your Kentico site can be ehanced. So how do we get there? Continue on reading part 2 of How to Improve Your Kentico Site Search Experience in Only a Matter of Minutes to find out.