by Chris Myhill
Director of Experience
Best practices in web design change at an incredible pace. Every month it feels like there’s a new pattern or technique we should be using. In spite of this, some interactions have stood the test of time. One such feature is the humble site search.
A search bar is so ingrained into user expectations that it’s pretty much a given on any content-rich website. Recently we’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of ‘no results found’ pages. We wrote about them in our article on planning for edge cases.
In our experience, the best websites and apps are the ones with attention to detail. They plan for when things go wrong, and aim to resolve these issues quickly.
Great site search doesn’t just dead-end the user when they fail to find results. Instead they turn errors into opportunities, and provide a much better user experience. Here are 8 examples that we think do an awesome job of this.
The copy is written a really user-friendly way. The message is prominent, and it’s made very clear that something has gone wrong.
In terms of next steps, suggestions are clearly broken out as bullet points. B&Q also provide links to other helpful resources, giving users the opportunity to find support.
Wayfair gives a really human explanation of the error. It’s super clear and obvious what went wrong.
Better still, the most prominent thing on the page is a big button to ‘contact us’. There’s a chance that by taking the conversation offline Wayfair can still secure a sale. Giving the user someone to talk to at this critical point can help us understand what they wanted, and hopefully provide a solution.
Options to then browse by department gives the user a helpful next step.
Another great ecommerce example.
Tesco gives the user some clearly written suggestions. Clear buttons to explain what the options are, and provide helpful next steps.
They also use this page as an opportunity to promote some popular products. If the user can’t find what they’re looking for on the site, they can at least attempt to salvage some interest with featured promotions.
The nature of the real estate market means that listings on property sites like On The Market can change constantly.
A search that returns no results one week might return a dozen the next. That’s why the site allows me to create an alert, letting me know when properties matching my searched criteria are added.
The site also gives me some other, similar properties that match some of my criteria. This means I’ve got loads of options for how to move forward, despite the website not having exactly what I wanted.
Like real-estate, careers sites also have the same variability in their listings. Signing up for search alerts is incredibly valuable to users.
TransferWise appreciates that job openings matching the user’s specific criteria might not be available right now…. But in a week’s time, they could well be.
A ‘no results found’ page is the ideal opportunity to promote signing up for alerts, to get visitors back in later. It means that a meaningful interaction can still be salvaged from this session, and the user journey can be picked up later.
Avid Ebay customers hit the search feature frequently, hoping to be the first person to spot an exciting new auction. Someone hunting for a specific item doesn’t want to miss out, but checking back every day could get super annoying.
This issue is transformed into an opportunity. If there’s nothing listed right now, the user can opt to ‘follow the search’. This alerts them when the thing they’re looking for becomes available. Even if that never happens, Ebay have still got the user’s details for future marketing purposes.
If used responsibly, it’s a great way to keep potential customers engaged.
The Money Advice Service provides free and impartial financial advice to consumers. Answering people’s questions is the main goal of the site, so if search fails there needs to be a helpful next step.
In this case, the interaction is escalated to conversation with a real person. On the no results found page, extremely clear options as to how users can contact the service are provided. You couldn’t miss them.
Grocery site Farmdrop uses ‘no results found’ pages as an opportunity. When a search fails, the user can suggest a product to the company. This means they can consider stocking it in future. The feature is clearly presented, and very quick to use.
This is a great example of turning error into opportunity, and allowing the user to provide helpful feedback to the business.
The best user experiences demonstrate helpfulness at every opportunity, even if they don’t give the visitor exactly what they wanted.
As designers, we need to be doing whatever we can to prevent dead-ends in the user journey. ‘No results found’ pages are make-or-break moments in the experience, and putting a little effort into them could salvage a whole lot of value.
Once again, it’s attention to detail that makes for great products. Make sure you’re designing for those edge cases, and keep being helpful!
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