April 29, 2010, 12:07 AM

Site search must be streamlined on the mobile web, expert says

Retailers creating mobile versions of their web sites should emphasize fast and relevant site search.

Retailers creating mobile versions of their web sites should emphasize fast, streamlined and relevant site search, says Shaun Ryan, CEO of SLI Systems Inc., a provider of hosted site search applications.

Because the screens of mobile devices are small, there is little room for a shopper to navigate from page to page or product to product, Ryan says in a blog post on the SLI site. “With effective mobile site search, people don’t need to rely on navigation—so it’s a space-effective way of getting people to the information they want to find on your site,” he writes.

The small screen size also limits the search choices a retailer can offer to a shopper. “For instance, it’s very difficult to show options for refining search results,” he says. Variable download speeds also limit how long users are willing to wait for search results to load.

“These factors make site search even more crucial to a mobile web site since it’s more difficult to navigate through a web site via a mobile device,” Ryan says. That means retailers must make site search prominent t on mobile sites.

Relevance also is key to mobile site search, because it’s difficult to show facets to refine results. “You want to make every effort to ensure the results are relevant after typing in a keyword,” Ryan says. “Users can’t or won’t scroll through pages of results to find what they need.”

Retailers also should limit the number of images used in mobile site search, using only pictures small enough not to slow down page loads. “On the other hand, you may want to include easy access to product reviews,” he says. ”People tend to use mobile devices when they are shopping, and they may want to access reviews on the spot.”

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