An experience a user has while using search on your website needs to be simple, quick, and should be the most effective way to find information they are looking for.
To be true, search is more than an experience a user has when they interact with your website. Users can quickly form an opinion about your website, based on the quality of search results. There are various facets/sections of search that you need to consider when creating a search experience for your website.
Law firm websites are unique from a perspective that - content is the king. However, with rich and large content comes a unique problem of ensuring that the users get the required information in a short span of time. This is where search is indispensable.
Let us take a detailed look at top 3 challenges and what can we do to fix them:
1. Ease of use to enter the search criteria
The ability to input criteria (keyword) is the start of a user’s interaction with your website’s search experience. Though this is the first step, but you need to provide multiple ways in which a user can enter their search criteria.
- Search Box – start with the basic ability to key in the search parameter
- Voice-Enabled Search Entry – ability for a user to enter search criteria through voice enabled feature
- Ability to scan keyword – search feature to have the ability to use the device’s camera to scan for text keyword that can be used as a search criteria
- Most-Searched Keyword – a user should have the ability to choose from some of the most searched keywords
The above-mentioned methods are largely used for both desktop and mobile users. However, the second and third techniques are more aligned with mobile users, with emphasis on ‘ease of use’.
The other question most people have are - how prominent should be the search feature on the website. To answer this in concisely, it depends on a few factors.
- Type of Users
- Type of Content
- Backend Capabilities (technical capabilities)
Keeping these in mind, you can make a call as to how to best place the search icon, or should make your search feature more prominent.
More than anything else, we need to understand that we should avoid letting a user type keyword but largely push for having more of Voice enabled and suggestive searches. Especially in mobile you should always move ahead with less typing and more tapping rule.
2. Provide search results in a manner which is easier to consume
In some cases as soon as the user clicks on the search button, they are flooded with information results, thereby confusing the user. Your search result page should be designed in manner which not only lets a user consume the information easily, but also allows to filter the information in the easiest possible manner.
Search result page often is a boring layout, but our understanding is - this is an area which has the biggest potential to have an impact on the search experience.
In order have a robust search result we need to have the following:
- Ability to showcase and handle different types of content – The ability to handle different types of content is more in relationship to the visualization, rather than the content. For instance - the ability to quickly differentiate a bio from a thought leadership needs to be important, visually.
- Ability to filter information in the quickest and easiest manner – Filters are important for users to segment the right content, and needs to be simple enough to be used by any user.
- Ability to customize result to showcase a single type of content – A law firm website search result can publish different types of content - thought leadership articles, bios, practice services information, etc.. There should be an ability to simply view only single type of content, when required.
- Ability to review content without leaving the search result page – A typical experience for anyone searching for content is - review search result. There are couple of ways to negate this problem. The first one being the ability to provide summary or blur, and the second would be a continuous ability to read through multi-select article features (this lets a user select a part of the information and then give ability to read them one after another).
- Group similar type of content – In a lot of scenarios, there are information which are linked to each other showcasing linking of information as part of search result.
- Quick, Quick and Quick – The most important aspect is not to make user wait. The system should be quick with negligible wait time for the user. This is purely because a slow load time of page will bring a negative experience.
- Customize result order – Search results are based on a certain set of parameters and there are a set of rules to decide how to showcase the results. Our experience says that this order is needed to be customized by law firms, such as - making sure the bio of the CEO is represented right on the top, regardless how the result is sorted.
- Ability to promote or have featured content – Featured or highlighted content promotion is a must as search result page is the right place to promote different kinds of content.
3. Ability to guide users to the right information
A website should be ready to guide users towards the right content. The information needs to be pushed up rather than pulled by the user - this is the most important aspect which a few of the websites have. The idea of continuous conversation with users should be adapted. This is easier said than done, but let us delve how we can make this a reality.
- Step 1: Recognize the user that is coming to your website - This is a primary aspect of any kind of website experience. The best way to do this is to create a single view of the customer by gathering various data points. These could be - the industry he belongs to, topic he is interested in, geographical location, etc.
- Step 2: Push the content – Now that we know who our users are, we can then go by pushing the right information to the right user.
- The first aspect is the make sure you publish/push keywords around the topic users are interested in. As part of search experience, this is starting point.
- Provide complementary information – Assuming that a user is searching for a particular practice, you need to push in - thought leadership, events or any other information which can be provided upfront along with the search. This information is not required to be published on the search result page, but on the type ahead window.
- Continuous conversation – The system should be able to learn and manage result items of anticipating what a user wants and what a user needs
- Cross and Up Sell content – On the search result page, we should have space holders to highlight content which are not related to the keyword(s) searched.
- Step 3: Learn from what user is doing and what they are searching for – These days, users are very impatient, they don’t have a time to look and search for the information they need. They expect the system to be intelligent enough to anticipate what users are looking for and what they want. With Google’s integrated experience which gather data points from every facet of your life, users’ expectation run high. With machine learning and artificial intelligence, this is more of a reality than a fantasy.
The way we search, and the way we interact within a website are changing. Users are asking for a lot more as they expect superior customer experience, and website search cannot lag in this aspect. With AI and machine learning, website search will gain some exciting trajectory.
A website is one of the most important and unique marketing assets for any law firm, and search on the website is a crucial part of the website. Therefore, before you start to build a new experience, make sure you cater the same - keeping in mind the users, type of content and technological challenges.