March 31, 2003, 12:00 AM

Site search shouldn’t end with “No results found,” says design consultant

56% of top retail sites surveyed offer no further help when queries find no matches–-but the best online retailers offer more options to keep customers connected, says design consultant 37signals.

More than half–-56%--of 25 top e-retail sites reviewed by web design consultants 37signals offered little or no further help to shoppers when search queries delivered a “no results found” page. Yet site operators might still capture a sale or at least cultivate shoppers’ goodwill by not letting the shopper’s search end there, says the Chicago-based company, which used its review to develop a list of 22 best practices to improve site search with better handling of common search query errors.

When no matches are found to a visitor’s query, the No Results Found page should clearly display the searched term and the fact that results weren’t found for that particular term. It should then show tips or hints to help customers expand queries to get better results, such as suggesting that visitors check spelling or widen or narrow search criteria, according to 37signals.

Additionally, the No Results Found page should include a search box where visitors can re-enter search terms without having to return to a previous page, as well as provide advanced search options that let visitors try the search again in a different way. The page should provide links to popular or recent searches conducted by other visitors, on the chance that such searches could be relevant to the visitor. Finally, “Solicit feedback and listen to your customers,” says 37signals president Jason Fried. “Allow your customers to tell you what they were looking for so you can see if it’s something worth selling.”


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