Testing Tip – Always complete a ‘no results’ test

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October 5, 2018
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Testing Tip – Always complete a ‘no results’ test

No results lead to a dead end for users

Whenever you are testing a search facility or a website that uses filters to narrow the number of items being displayed, there is the potential that the user will discover there are no results for the criteria they input or selected.

What is displayed to the user when this occurs? Hopefully, at the minimum, a nice friendly message to explain that no results were found and then what the user can do next.

However, it is often the case that the user is left with no message at all, just a blank space. Not only does this look wrong (some users may think the search is broken), this does not provide the user with a good experience and can often lead the user to a dead end if they are not prompted on what steps they can take to fulfill their search.

Think about what would provide the user with a positive experience if they encounter no results. Do you even need to allow the user to see that there are no results? For example, a clothing ecommerce site may allow users to filter products based on the type of clothing, size, colour, etc. If the ecommerce site allows the user to select ‘Shirt’ and then ‘Yellow’ but has no yellow shirts, then it may be better to not display the ‘Yellow’ option, or perhaps display ‘Yellow (o)’ but not allow the user to click on that.

A keyword site search may allow the user to search for anything and so no results may be encountered fairly frequently. There is a great opportunity to find out what users are searching for, why there were no results and potentially suggest content that is related to what they were searching for. Such as, no Yellow Shirts but there are other clothing items in yellow, such as Sweaters or T-Shirts.

Don’t let no results be the end of the journey for your users, test what happens when no results are encountered and think about how you present a positive user experience and lead users onto further content or product information.

Looking for more tests to carry out for a site search facility, check out our Testing Plan for a Site Search.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Tom Batey
Tom Batey
Tom Batey, founder of Testing Web Sites & WebDepend, is a hands on website tester focusing on quality across web, mobile and email.