Navigation Or Search: What Do Consumers Prefer?
Logic would tell you that internet users would use the search function of a website to quickly find what they are looking for. However, statistics show that navigation is the more commonly used methods of exploring a website.
There are several reasons for this. End-users are more accustomed to clicking than using a search engine. And we are just not that good at searching. Whilst search options should be readily available, the onus on web designers is to make sure that click-navigation is as easy as possible.
In order to provide the best user-experience, visitors want to be able to find information they want in the fewest clicks. That is sometimes difficult to do so let’s put it another way from a different perspective; provide visitors with options that enable them to make meaningful choices.
Let’s assume a visitor has landed on your website through a search engine. This means they are looking for specific information and given search engines are pretty adept at understanding user-intent, the visitor has arrived on one of your pages that is ranking the highest for a particular keyword.
But what if that page does not have all the information the end-user wants? Or maybe the content on that page raises further questions – such as price, what your product and service offers, delivery times etc.
No matter what point of the purchasing process a visitor enters your website, they have to be able to find the information they are looking for. Web designer therefore need to create a logical path through the purchasing process and copywriters have to make sure relevant links to useful information provide a network of information.
Web design cannot rely on IA alone
Designing a large site with lots of pages is very difficult to create a logical purchasing path. Designers cannot rely on information architecture alone –and that includes embedding navigational links in the copy.
Providing end-users always have a starting point to return to where all the information they can expect to find on the site is presented – typically the Homepage and navigational menus– they will always be able to skip topics and search for something else.
The most logical way however is the search function. Yet searchers are a rare breed. It has been suggested that the reason visitors are reluctant to search on websites is because they rely on search engines to provide them with immediate answers.
This assumption has made us become incompetent searchers because we no longer ask the questions we need to find what we are looking for. Website owners therefore can improve the user-experience on their website by encouraging visitors to use the search option in order to find immediate answers rather than clicking through various pages.
Regardless of how well web designers create a navigational path, UX can always be improved by raising questions and guiding visitors to other areas of your website. Improving UX is not just about providing information in as few clicks as possible, but suggesting meaningful information customers will find helpful.