If your website has a site search facility then there are quite a few aspects that are well worth testing to make sure that the site search is actually providing benefits to your users.

Site searches are especially useful for ecommerce sites with lots of products and information sites with lots of pages. If your site search doesn’t do the business then users cannot find products or information that they are looking for.

Site searches also provide great opportunities to increase conversion, increase loyalty and increase average order value.

Here are the main aspects that I consider when testing a site search, which are also covered in the Site Search Hub Page on the WebDepend website.

Ease of finding the site search facility

  • Is the site search facility located in an easy to spot location?
  • Site searches are conventionally located in the top right area of each page although several retailers opt for a more prominent location in the centre towards the top of each page.
  • Review the design of the site search box, does it stand out and make it obvious that you can carry out a search?
  • Does the site search have a clear action button to carry out a search and, if text is displayed within the search box, does it disappear when you type into it?

Site Search Testing Checklist

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Download a PDF version of the site search testing checklist so you can print it out to run through whilst testing.

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Carrying out site searches

  • Can you carry out a range of searches for one word and multiple word phrases and have logical results returned?
  • Can you search by product code?
  • What if you try searching for single letters or digits, do you get results or a helpful validation message?
  • What if you try searching for nothing, do you get a helpful validation message?
  • For word and phrase searches, what are the results like that are returned, are they logical, are they relevant, are they helpful to the search completed?
  • Can the site search interpret mis-typed words or spelling errors? For instance, if you search for ipda then can the search realise that you meant ipad?

Site search suggestions

  • Does the site search have an auto suggest facility, which presents suggestions as you start typing into the search box?
  • If so, does the auto suggest display relevant suggestions as you type?
  • What happens if you click on one of the suggestions, are the results displayed relevant to the result clicked on?

Ability to carry out an advanced search

  • Is there an ability to carry out an advanced search?
  • If so, what are the options or criteria available within the advanced search?
  • Can you carry out searches with each of the criteria selected or included in the search and have relevant results returned?
  • Are there criteria that prevent any results from being returned?
  • There should not be instances where searches provide zero results. If selecting certain criteria means that zero results will be displayed then it is better to remove or hide those search criteria from being used.

Ordering of site search results

  • Are the search results displayed in a relevant order?
  • For instance, if there are a lot of results then, much like with search engines, users will not page through results to find what they are looking for.
  • Is it possible to reorder the results through the use of sort order columns or other facilities?
  • Do these filters or ordering options work as expected?

Display of site search results

  • Are the search results clear and easy to understand?
  • Do the page titles and page descriptions (or product details) appear relevant and understandable?
  • This will often mean making sure that page titles and descriptions are set correctly for each page and correctly describe what is on that page rather than using a generic page title.
  • What other details are displayed for each result, are they relevant and necessary?
  • Is it easy to understand where to click to view that page or product?
  • Are there images returned in results?
  • Are these images sized correctly?
  • Are they clickable?
  • Does clicking on a result take you to the correct page or product?

If lots of results are displayed

  • Are the most relevant results to the search presented on the first page?
  • Is the number of results found easy to spot?
  • Is there an opportunity to filter results or search within the results set?

Pagination

  • If there are a lot of results then is there pagination displayed?
  • Does the pagination allow you to move between pages of results easily?
  • If filters are applied and the pagination is used then do the filtered results persist correctly?
  • If the order of results is changed and the pagination is used then how does the ordering react?

If no results are displayed

  • What are the options presented to the user?
  • Are those options helpful for the user to find what they are looking for or continue with the task they are trying to complete?
  • Does the website provide any contact details or allow the user to submit feedback?

Being able to return to the site search results

  • Once the user has clicked on a search result, is it possible for them to easily return to the search results?

Site search performance

  • For different types of searches, how long does the website take to respond and deliver the search results to the screen?
  • If there is an auto suggestion facility, does that respond in a realistic time as you type?
  • Are there times when the site search facility responds more slowly than at other times?

Mobile devices

  • Does the site search work correctly on mobile devices?
  • Does it have a mobile optimised experience or use the main site templates?
  • If there are auto suggestions are they displayed correctly on a smaller screen?
  • Can filters, pagination, etc. be easily tapped with a finger?
  • Is it an enjoyable or a frustrating experience to use the site search on a mobile device?

I hope you found this run through of testing aspects for a site search useful, please let me know what you think of it and if you think I’ve missed anything out.