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How to design search result pages

In this two-part article, Jared Spool shares some tips on how to design search results pages:

- Prevent that people have to jump back and forth between the search result page and the individual result pages (pogosticking), by providing the information people need to make qualified choices between the results

- Keep the most relevant results at the top as people will loose momentum as they encounter results that don't seem relevant. Providing sorting and filtering tools can help people find the results that are most relevant to them.

- Eliminate 'wacko' results that are irrelevant as they reduce peoples confidence in the search

- Put more results on each result page. Limiting each page to ten results doesn't seem to be for the benefit of the users as they tend not to look beyond the first page and don't mind search results pages containing many results

- Handle "No Results" gracefully by telling people that you don't have what they are looking for.


  • Producing Great Search Results: Harder than It Looks, Part 1 Open link in new window
  • Producing Great Search Results: Harder than It Looks, Part 2 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 04, 2008

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How to make search engines on website work

Here's another insightful Usability Tools Podcast from UIE, this time about on-site search. Jared Spool and Brian Christiansen discuss:

- Why are your users searching your site?
- What separates the best search experiences from the worst?
- What can be done to improve search results?
- How can you tell search is succeeding on your site?


  • Usability Tools Podcast: On-Site Search Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 27, 2007

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Interviews (30) 



Are users seach dominant?

Are there user who always go right to the search engine when the first visit a web site looking for content? In this episode of the UIE Usability Tools Podcast, Jared Spool and Christine Perfetti discuss one of their studies that showed that users aren't search dominiat.

In the podcast they discuss:

- Why no user always went to the search engine on a site
- How the design of a site's page determines what location strategy users employ
- How the design community reacted to UIE's research on search dominance
- Why your site's navigation may be poorly designed if your users are gravitating to search


  • Usability Tools Podcast: Are There Users Who Always Search? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 10, 2007

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See also: Interviews (30)  Audio and video (48) 



Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen

DevSource has published a nice 8-minute online video interview featuring Dr. Jakob Nielsen.

Nielsen addresses a wide range of topics, such as proper attitude for programmers, the importance of prototyping in design, and the reasons why PDF, Flash, and local search engines can hurt more than they help.


  • Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2006 - via WebWord

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See also: Interviews (30)  Usability testing (68)  Prototyping and wireframing (119)  Audio and video (48) 



593 ways of spelling Britney Spears

People often mispel words when using search engines. Google has registered 593 ways of spelling Britney Spears.


  • 593 ways of spelling Britney Spears Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 26, 2006 - via

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Auto-completion in search interfaces

According to Jesper Ronn-Jensen from, live search will gradually replace traditional search on the web. In live search interfaces results are fetched whenever the user stops typing for a brief moment. An example of this is Google Suggest where the most popular results are presented as-you-type.

Jesper sees the following benefits:
- The search user interface is identical to traditional search
- Misspellings can be corrected immediately
- Relevant alternatives are presented as you type
- It's easy to refine your search: Just continue typing
- If the search is too narrow it's easy to press backspace and remove characters


  • Live search explained Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 26, 2006

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Best bets - hand-crafted search results

Much can be done to improve the quality of search results. But according to James Robertson, no amount of tweaking search engines will ensure that the most relevant results always appear at the beginning of the list. This is where "best bets" come in.

Best bets are a hand-created list of key resources for common queries, presented prominently at the beginning of the search results. By analyzing search statistics, we can ensure that the most useful pages are listed right at the top of popular searches.


  • Search engine 'best bets' Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 06, 2005

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Users' expectations of search

Based on a usability test of a system that allows people to search a large set of content Donna Maurer interpreted the users' expectations of search:

- It is better to put more than one word in as one word gives too much stuff
- Adding an extra word gives fewer results
- The first word in the search box is more important than the other words
- If the words make a sensible phrase the search engine should return results for the phrase
- If the words do not make a sensible phrase, the search engine shouldn't look for the phrase.


  • Regular folks searching Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 14, 2005

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See also: Research (129) 



Top Ten Web Design Mistakes 2005

It's time for Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design Mistakes. In 2005 Jakob has asked his readers about their opinion. Here's the result:

#1 Legibility problems due to small fonts and low contrast
#2 Non-standard links that violate common expectations
#3 Flash with no purpose beyond annoying people
#4 Content that is not written for the web
#5 Bad search
#6 Browser incompatibility
#7 Cumbersome forms
#8 No contact information or other company information
#9 Layouts with fixed width
#10 Photo enlargements that doesn't show the users the details they expect


  • The article Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 03, 2005

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See also: Forms (30)  Text (24)  Links (19)  Flash (6)  Browsers (3) 



Free e-commerce search report

37signals have made their e-commerce search report from 2003 available for free. The report looks at the usability of search results from 25 of the internet's leading online retailers, and concludes with a comprehensive set of best practices.

For each retailer 37signal have tested:
- Are the search results accurate and relevant?
- How does the site handle misspellings?
- Can I sort the search results by useful criteria?
- Will the site understand related words and common synonyms?
- Can I search using mixed specifications such as gender, color, and price?
- Does the site provide helpful tips when it returns no results?


  • The report Evaluating 25 E-Commerce Search Engines Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 15, 2005

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  E-commerce (27) 

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