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Designing Your Search Interface

WebReview.com: Designing Your Search Interface

Information Architecture

In this excerpt from Chapter 6 of Information Architecture, Lou and Peter discuss the important aspects of designing a user interface for your search engine. They discuss the different modes of searching, how to integrate the searching and browsing system, matching your search area's look to your site, and how to let the user know how to use your search site to its fullest ability.

With so much variation among users to account for, there can be no single ideal search interface. Although the literature of information retrieval includes many studies of search interface design, many variables preclude the emergence of the right way to design search interfaces. Here are a few of the variables on the table:

  • The level of searching expertise users have: Are they comfortable with Boolean operators, or do they prefer natural language? Do they need a simple or high-powered interface? What about a help page?
  • The kind of information the user wants: Do they want just a taste, or are they doing comprehensive research? Should the results be brief, or should they provide extensive detail for each document?
  • The type of information being searched: Is it made up of structured fields or full text? Is it navigation pages, destination pages, or both? HTML or other formats?
  • How much information is being searched: Will users be overwhelmed by the number of documents retrieved?

We can, however, provide basic advice that you should consider when designing a search interface.

Support Different Modes of Searching
See how to make your site more searchable by offering users different ways to search through your content.

Searching and Browsing Systems Should Be Closely Integrated More often than not, users won't know if they want to search your site, or just browse through the content. See how you can offer the user both on the same page.

Searching Should Conform to the Site's Look and Feel
When you add a search interface to your site, such as Excite, why not make it conform to your site's design?

Search Options Should Be Clear
Adding online help documentation to your search interface will aid users in finding the information they need.

Bottom-up Architecture
Designing Navigation Systems
Designing Your Search Interface

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