When is a search feature on your website necessary?

When the content of a website is not well organized, an efficient search bar is not only useful but also crucial, even for simple website navigation. A good information architecture and user-friendly page structure can make the search function unnecessary.

Smaller websites with a limited number of web pages or with a limited number of content types often do not need a search function. There, the optimized User Experience should suffice.

As a website grows in size and complexity, the search box is used more often. Visitors use the search bar as an effective tool to find answers immediately. What components are important for your search page?

After all, a search feature must meet your visitor's high quality requirements. A visitor is used to having all the information at his fingertips, through search engines like Google. And that visitor expects the same from your website.

So what can such a comprehensive search experience consist of? We give some examples of commonly used techniques:


Autocomplete - The website automatically completes your search term starting from X number of letters. With autocomplete you increase the chance that visitors will quickly find what they were looking for so they don't have to search through a whole list of possible answers themselves. You can also optionally suggest frequently searched queries.


Fuzzy search - You don't have to enter a word exactly right to get the right result. Combined with autocomplete, this ensures that you get far fewer empty search results. An empty results page is a dead end for a user. You can also use your empty results page to show some popular pages to avoid people leaving your website.


Geolocation - If location can be an important part of a search on your website, include locations in your search results. This could be in the form of a map. Think for example of shopping locations or the various participants of Open Monuments Day.


Attachments - If you have a lot of information on your site only as attachments or PDF files, then it is definitely useful to have those searched as well.


Synonyms - Especially for sites with many industry-specific words, it is useful to include synonyms in the search fields. Of course, you can also deal with this by already including the synonyms in the content of the pages. To make sure that the synonyms are included for all pages, we can also have them included directly in the search function. This way you can be sure that any search for "doctor" will also return all results with "doctor". You can also include incorrect spellings of a word as synonyms. This is also a way to avoid a page with no results as much as possible.


Saved/favorite searches - For some use cases, it is useful to add a search filter as well. You can even offer visitors the ability to save and re-use filters. For example, in a web shop with complex filters, make it possible to save the filters you've applied, and revisit them later.


Ignore stop words - Stop words ("that, one, the, some, ...") appear in many pages, and by nature they are more likely to appear in longer pages than in short ones. In order not to favor the long pages and thus bring up perhaps irrelevant results, it is best to ignore them. Drupal's Search API module already takes care of this automatically.

Search field = input field + submit button

Design is the most important thing about a search field. Reason? Visitors don't read the page, they scan the site looking for the search field. The most common design for the search field is a box, where the input field is a relatively wide box. When designing a search field, it's best to keep in mind to make it easily visible, that way users don't have to search for it. A search functionality should make the content of your site findable, so the last thing you want to do is search for a search field.

Leesrichting bezoekers

This brings us to the next point:

How do you make sure a search bar is well found?

Visitors searching for a search field generally start their search at the top right. If it is not found there, they continue to scan the entire top of the page. As a result, the most ideal place for a search field is at the top right of the page. There are a number of icons that are almost automatically linked to an object/service/function... The magnifying glass icon is a good example. The recognizable icon is almost immediately linked to 'search'. It is therefore advisable to always accompany a search field with such an icon.

How do you make sure your search results convert as well?

If you show products on the results page, there should certainly be links that do not just link to the details page of a product but directly add a CTA to put the product in the shopping cart.  Also, don't make your search results too boring and add images that you also use on regular overview pages.


Making the choice between showing the normal teaser on the one hand, or including a search snippet on the other, should also be easy; always show your search excerpt.
Your search results should not always be displayed as a list of results. Displaying results on a map can have an added value if your results are geographically dispersed. For example, don't do this if you are creating a municipal website and all the locations are 10 km from the church tower.  
Also make sure that the content of the search field remains visible when the overview of search results is loaded. Users often change their original search term if they don't immediately find what they were looking for. Make that easy by leaving the last keyword typed in.
On the results page it is useful to also see the number of results found. This way, the user immediately knows if the keywords used are specific enough.

When do you add facets to refine your search results and what should they look like?

If your search page contains different types of content (for example, products, services and blog articles), it is always useful to add a facet for them.

The advantage of a facet over a regular filter is that a facet will categorize on the content that is already shown. Thus, you will never be able to filter on "blog" with a facet if there is no blog article among the search results.

What other facets are also helpful?

  • Have you listed services that have opening hours shows, a "now open" facet is helpful for the users' experience;
  • Are you showing products? Then it is useful to be able to filter on a range of prices (eg 0-100, 100-200, 200-300, ...), this can either be with a range input or with different links below each other;
  • If you show locations that are geographically spread, then you should also add a filter/facet for searching within x km.

Based on market research, it is useful to see what competitors are doing. That way you know what other, similar sites are doing. This will ensure that the search page we build for you provides a better user experience. Also add sorting options to the search results, but set it to most relevant by default. For e-commerce, it's helpful to also be able to sort by price (cheapest first) or by most recent first for news articles.


A strong search function facilitates visitors' search experience and increases the usability of your website.

Also analyze the keywords that people enter in the search, that way you can see where there are gaps in your content. If you notice dozens of people searching for the same (or similar) search terms, you can create new content for them. You can also customize your site's home page by highlighting other pages.

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Do you also want a well designed search page on your Drupal website? Contact our experts and we will give you appropriate advice.