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Nov 23, 2021

Want to build a powerful search engine? Start with the user experience



min read

Just a few years ago, user experience in design was seen as an afterthought. Digital products were designed primarily by developers who focused on function, not necessarily seamless usability. From 2000 to 2010, the number of working UX professionals increased 10X from roughly 10,000 people to 100,000. (Now the number is closer to 1 million.)

A lot of this growth coincides with popular companies like Apple taking user experiences more seriously in design. The iPhone — which transformed the standard clunky phone experience into one that was simple and delightful — may have been one of the biggest conduits for this change.

Today, the term “user experience” is core to the development of most digital products, apps, and websites. It’s no longer a fringe set of principles.  It is the standard, which means customers now expect a good user experience, including using search engines. In this article, we’ll cover why creating a powerful search experience is so vital to your business — and why search experience is more important than existing data.

Why a good search experience is non-negotiable in 2022 and beyond

A good search experience is not a nice-to-have in 2022. It’s non-negotiable. Users expect a seamless experience in every app, website, or other digital product they use. 

What does that mean when it comes to Elasticsearch? It means that the search experience on your website needs to live up to the expectations of your customers and website visitors. What are those expectations? 

It can be summed up in primarily two factors: relevancy and speed. Search relevancy is evident because it’s the one everyone talks about. “Relevancy” gets a lot of airtime in the world of search engine optimization, for example. People like to discuss the importance of populating content that matches the search intent of the person making the query.

But merely focusing on relevancy leaves out the even more key expectation that fewer people talk about: the fact that people now expect the results of their query instantaneously. As we discussed in a previous article, your search experience should deliver results to queries in less than 100 milliseconds. Anything longer than that gives users pause. They notice — and not in a good way.

Think about it in the context of your favorite search engines. All of us have experienced a time when we couldn't find the information we were looking for. With the best search engines, we can quickly do another search that usually Garner's something closer to the results we were looking for. But the whole experience is seamless and instantaneous. That's why we keep going back to those search engines. They make our lives easier.

In fact, the instant nature of search engines is more fundamental than search relevancy for one primary reason: Even if a search result is irrelevant, a fast search engine experience allows the user to make new queries quickly. If your speed is poor, even relevant responses to a search might get people to leave before the query has populated the answers. 

(Of course, if your search engine has zero relevance then users won’t stick around, so speed and relevancy is the gold standard.)

Core elements of a great search experience

If you’re trying to design a powerful search experience, here’s what you need to consider in design: 

  • Speed
  • Relevancy
  • Simple design
  • Good organization of content

What most people miss when building a search engine

It's not easy to build a powerful search engine. That's why products like Bonsai exist: to help businesses easily build search experiences that deliver relevant results, instantly.

A common mistake people make when building a search engine is starting with their existing data instead of the search experience. It makes sense: If you’re building something new, it’s easiest to start with what you know. But this is less effective than starting with the experience.

A good search experience means that there is a well-thought-out organization of content, services, and information. The data means less than the experience of surfacing the right information quickly. So, once you know how your search experience will be for the end user, you can know how to organize the data so that it appears when and where it needs to. This eliminates high level organizational problems that are common among bad search experiences. Start with the end-user in mind instead of simply thinking about the information you want to display.

Looking for an easier way to build a powerful search experience? Use Bonsai today or speak with one of our consultants. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Schedule a free consultation to see how we can create a customized plan to meet your search needs.

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