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When someone comes to your website with an information need, they have two options: they can either use the site’s navigation to get where they need to go, or they can use the search function. We’re going to focus on the latter for this article.
Many of us do dozens or even hundreds of searches per day without even thinking about it: searching for an email, searching for that song on Spotify, figuring out what to make for dinner, looking up a contact on your phone, finding a word on this page.
We just expect search to work—but that’s easier said than done.
Search is a key feature in web experience, and for a lot of people, it's the go-to method to find content. We use search countless times a day on our smartphones in various contexts. And yet, when we're building out websites, search is often an afterthought that we don't spend much time on. Search gets added to the laundry list of site features, like meta tags and social media links.
Over the last few weeks, we've been developing a better way to find books from Montreal's library system. The result is BibliOuverte, a website which pulls in data from the city's database of library books and turns it into an advanced search interface.
Recently, I've been working on the search interface for McGill University's course catalog. The University wants to allow students to browse courses at friendly URLs like:
Creating a search interface for a website with a lot of content requires providing a variety of filters. Sometimes those filters can take on a life of their own, providing hundreds of options for users to filter by. While building widgets for our Drupal/Solr projects, we looked at a couple non-Drupal examples of search interfaces for content-heavy websites.
When designing the search interface for the McGill Univesrity Health Centre website, there was a lot of discussion around the interface for the header search form.