Searching is one of the main ways people find content on the web. The majority of traffic to your site typically starts with a search on a web search engine (such as Google). Members of the public arriving on your site from a search engine are unlikely to have seen any other pages on your website; so it is important that they can quickly figure out where they are and where they can go next.

Your site should support people in finding their way to the most relevant content on your site by:

  • Using webmaster tools to make sure the site is indexed by search engines. This is known as search engine optimisation (SEO).
  • Checking web analytics and webmaster tools to see how you can improve your visibility for web searches.
  • Making sure that metadata titles and descriptions are good.

Provide an easy to use on-site search

When people are trying to find particular content on your site (and if the location of this content is not easy to find), they will typically use your on-site search. The following guidance will help make on-site searches easier to use:

  • The on-site search should look and work like the web search engines that members of the public are most familiar with (for example, Google).
  • The search results should be ranked by relevance. There should be no duplicate results.
  • The search results page should identify the term searched for and the number of matches found.
  • The search should allow for misspelled words or variations in spellings, particularly for important search terms.

Provide a basic search option

Most people only use the basic search option and dislike having to choose between different search types. Therefore, it is recommended that the default search on your site should be a simple search. If you offer an advanced search option, ensure it does not complicate the basic search option.

Search Checklist

  • Provide an easy to use on-site search.
  • Provide helpful suggestions and alternative options in search results.