A great search experience should effortlessly connect a user to their needs. A “no results” page (error when the search engine can’t return any results), however, can disrupt this desired connection and cause frustration. With a well-designed search experience, you can avoid the “no results” page and point every user in a direction to discover something new.
Optimized search is a key component for sites looking to compete with other brands, acquire and retain users, and increase conversions and engagement. Every part of the search experience should promote discovery, and avoiding “no results” pages are essential to this goal.
In this piece, we’ll walk through a few examples of how to transform a “no results” occurrence into a new pathway forward.
Why “no results” pages are a UX dead end
Some sites have crafted “no results pages” that provide a humorous error message or align with the brand in some way. But these pages, no matter how witty, create a UX dead end. If users don’t find what they need, there is a high probability they will immediately bounce off of your site or app. In fact, 12% of users leave a site after an unsuccessful search. Here’s why:
“No results” pages ignore possible next steps
Helpful “no results” pages might include microcopy that prompts the user to search again or offers suggested and popular searches. However, many do not, which causes the search journey and the overall interaction with the site to end there. If you don’t offer your users another option when they don’t find results to their specific query, they won’t have any potential next steps to follow.
A persistent user may revise their search to try to get closer to what they want, but they’ll do so without any knowledge of why their initial search failed. However, since attention spans are short, and user search skills are often weak, many users won’t refine their search after failing the first time.
“No results” pages don’t accurately reflect site offerings
“No results” pages give the impression that what your visitor wants doesn’t actually exist on the site. Oftentimes, the reality is these relevant results do exist, but the site’s internal search is just not optimized to retrieve them. Search engines may trip up on typos, synonyms, or very specific queries. Many of these issues can be resolved by optimizing your search engine so that user error doesn’t result in a “no results” roadblock.
Keep in mind, 43% of site visitors immediately utilize the search box. It’s critical to make sure your search is as relevant as possible so those users are rewarded.
3 examples of search that replaces the “no results” page
A robust search solution, like Algolia, helps users avoid the traditional “no results” page by anticipating user needs and ensuring each user is on a path to content discovery. Here are three different examples of search experiences that eliminate the need for “no results” pages:
1. Lacoste — Instant Search results, even for unproductive queries
Regardless of the query, Lacoste gives users a path forward on their site, right from the search bar. While an unsuccessful query does generate a “sorry” message, it also returns a selection of curated products directly underneath. This serves to highlight Lacoste’s rich product catalog and provide the user with new and interesting results and opportunities for engagement rather than simply a dead end.
2. Under Armour — Typo-tolerant autocomplete
An un-optimized search engine can be tripped up by user errors and fail to serve results. The typo-tolerant autocomplete feature in Under Armour’s search bar both catches the user’s error as they type and offers them popular and recommended item suggestions. This functionality takes human error into account and allows users to course-correct to find what they’re looking for.
For example, if the user misspells ‘sock,’ the site still provides popular results that a user can click on and search for.
3. National Geographic Expeditions — Browse-based search
National Geographic’s Expeditions site takes a unique approach to search. This site encourages a browse-based search with a specific range of filters and facets. This type of navigation is best for a very focused, and usually smaller, results set. Users quickly become familiar with the parameters for the search catalog and can easily adjust their filter selection to find some result. This type of navigational search ensures that the user always has clear next steps for browsing through content to find what they’re looking for.
Best practices for improving your “no results” page
As these examples help illustrate, no results pages certainly don’t have to be dead ends for users. By focusing on improving a few different elements, you can eliminate this user roadblock:
Build your synonym library
A successful site search feature needs to parse through synonyms, as visitors searching for the same thing will often use different words to find that item. For example, a retailer selling handbags throughout the United States will want to take into account the regional variations of the term, such as ‘purse’ or ‘pocketbook’. A robust library of synonyms is essential and can be built based upon site search data to ensure accuracy.
Use autocomplete and query suggestions
You can increase the likelihood of successful search on the first try by providing users with queries that are known to return results. Helping users to refine their searches before they hit enter through autocomplete and query suggestions can point them in the right directions soon as they begin searching.
Leverage analytics to understand user needs
Each time a user visits your site, they provide valuable and actionable data. Use that information to your advantage by finding “no results” searches and improving your dataset to minimize the occurrence. Queries that lead to ‘0 results’ inevitably drive customers away, and might be an indicator of wrongly tagged content or overall content gaps. Take those unfulfilled needs into account and create content to fill potential gaps that are clearly identified in your analyses.
Lead your users to great results with optimized search
A great search experience promotes discovery and eliminates the “no results” page altogether. By optimizing your site search, you’ll create a path to valuable results for visitors, even when they fail to find exactly what they’re looking for. From autocomplete to federated search to filters and facets, Algolia Instant Search has all the UI components you need to craft a robust search that will meet your users’ needs.
To learn even more about how Algolia can increase customer retention and conversions, read our eBook “Search Beyond the Box.”