Design & Development

Critique Part Four: Site Search

The Problem: The results aren’t always relevant.

The Fix: A search for “snowboard” returns wax as the top result — but no snowboard until the fourth page of results, even though the site has an entire section dedicated to snowboards. Similarly irrelevant results came back for “bindings” and “longboard.” Relevance is the most critical feature of site search. Daddies Board Shop could significantly improve the relevance of search results by adding weight to the keywords that appear in titles and categories.

The Problem: The search yields results with a jumbled appearance.

The Fix: The results are ordered in a 2×10 grid format and the “add-to-cart” buttons don’t line up, giving the search a fairly jumbled appearance. It would be worthwhile to experiment with a list layout that presented longer descriptions beside each product with search terms in bold. This additional information can help users find what they want. It’s also nice to offer users the option to switch between grid and list views. The click-to-enlarge links bring up the product page, which does display a larger image; still, I doubt this is what the user would expect. Overall, if the images were smaller and arranged more efficiently, more products would appear above the fold.

Other important issues to address: The main features on this search page are the drop-down boxes at the top that allow the visitor to control the number of results shown as well as their order. Unfortunately, when the “sort by rating” option is selected, the ratings aren’t visible.
One standard feature that is missing is the ability to refine the results by category, brand, price, range, truck size, wheel diameter, etc. Further, the search option doesn’t run a spell-checker. The “no results” page contains a link to an advanced search, but showing some popular search terms or additional links to major categories or best sellers would offer significant benefits for the customer. The advanced search feature allows sorting by part number, but again it doesn’t show the part number on the search results page. We also couldn’t see the part numbers on the product details page and they didn’t seem to be searchable.

General advice: One of the best starting points from which to improve your search is to look at your search logs. Focus on the most popular search terms. Hand-tailor the pages for those keywords to ensure relevant results and offers on those pages. This is something that should be done continually, because search terms are never-ending in their variety and change constantly.

On a positive note: The layout of the search results on the Daddies Board Shop site is better than a lot of searches we see — but it could still benefit from significant improvement. The search page displays clear titles showing the search criteria. It also shows images of the products, prices and, where appropriate, “add-to-cart” buttons. Even on a small screen, there will be results above the fold.

The Critique Project

Melanie Loveland and her son Dan built a business together around a mutual passion — snowboarding. What started as a small, brick-and-mortar store in Portland, Ore., has evolved into a full-fledged multichannel merchant. It was a process the owners didn’t foresee when the business started in 1995.

Their business has seen dynamic change in the seven years since it launched a website. Daddies Board Shop now generates 80 percent of its sales through online channels and only 20 percent at the Portland store.

In February, when Practical eCommerce offered a once-in-a-lifetime complimentary website critique to one lucky recipient, Dan (along with many other website owners) petitioned for the critique — and his site was selected.

As part of the critique, five firms took an intensive look at Daddiesboardshop.comto analyze its problems, the opportunities for search engine optimization, its general Internet presence, site search, pay-per-click advertising and customer experience/usability. The firms were:

  • Search Engine Optimization: [Netconcepts], Stephan Spencer, President.
  • General Internet Presence: Red Door Interactive, Reid Carr, President.
  • Site Search: SLI Systems, Shaun Ryan, CEO.
  • Pay-per-click Advertising: Key Relevance, Christine Churchill, President.
  • Customer Experience/Usability: Optimal Usability, Richard Kerr, Usability Consultant.
Practical Ecommerce

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