As anyone who’s ever tried to find information online knows, a functional search bar is key.
Have you ever tried navigating a website with an outdated or poorly designed search bar? You’re looking for an affordable flight or hotel, but the travel agent’s website keeps sending you in circles, so in the end, you give up and take your business elsewhere.
The search bar provides the main functionality for many types of websites, such as service booking for accommodation, rental cars and transport, as well as online retail or services like online learning.
It’s how prospective customers find their way through your site, and a poor experience is likely to lose you business.
So, how do you design a search bar that gives a smooth and seamless customer experience?
Here are our top tips:
4 tips to design a user-friendly search bar
Before you begin, it’s vital to consider the purpose of your website and the kind of search bar you need. Think about improving and refining the search bar specifically for your users’ requirements.
Firstly, make sure your search bar is in a location that users will expect and that it’s easy to find. Usually, it would sit on your site header just under the navigation bar.
If the search bar is your website’s main functionality, make sure that it is prominent. It should be front and centre of your home page and easily accessible from other pages too.
A good search bar will help users by providing search suggestions based on terms that are most suitable for your website. There are three main types of search suggestions: past searches, keywords, and popular search suggestions.
Another valuable function to include is an autocomplete feature which improves the user journey by reducing the time needed to search for a keyword. This allows for typos and shows relevant results.
Offering advanced options is also a good idea. For example, this is something you might see on a library database to allow users to narrow their search and see only the most accurate results. If you think your search bar needs additional options, consider what would be essential to show for a basic search and what you could include in an expandable advanced options section.
Finally, when improving your search bar’s functionality, test any changes before publishing to ensure everything works as expected.
When it comes to design, don’t be afraid to use a large search bar. This makes your search bar clear and easy to use.
We always advise starting with a simple design as these are usually the most user-friendly. If you find that you do need to include additional search or filter options, make sure these are streamlined and not overly complicated.
Don’t forget responsive design and make sure the search bar looks and works well on different devices. Nowadays, over half of website traffic is generated by mobile devices, so don’t assume your users will be accessing your site via desktop!
It’s also important to future-proof your search bar but making it a component that’s part of a design system and ensuring all future updates are easy to make.
Accessibility is a vital but often overlooked aspect of digital design. Some simple solutions to maximise the accessibility of your search bar are:
- Indicate your search bar with a search icon.
- Add meaningful placeholder text that would make sense to someone using a screen reader.
- Check colour contrast requirements and design your search bar with WCAG requirements in mind.
If you’re not considering accessibility in your website design then you’re closing your business off to a whole audience of prospective customers and missing out on potential sales!
Wrapping it up: user-friendly search bars.
The search bar is a key component of your website design, and it needs to be considered carefully. A well-designed search bar could be the difference between gaining a new, loyal customer or losing one forever!
When optimising your search bar keep the purpose of your website and the needs of your users at the front of your mind. Even small changes such as font size can affect the usability of a search bar, so make sure you follow all best practices and advice to ensure a simple, efficient and customer-friendly search bar.