Chapter 7 helped you create the best navigation system possible for your web site. This chapter describes another form of finding information: searching. Searching (and more broadly, information retrieval) is an expansive and challenging field, and we can only scratch the surface here. We’ll limit our discussion to what makes up a search system, when to use search systems, and some practical advice on how to design a search interface and display search results.
This chapter often uses examples of search systems from sites that allow you to search the entire Web, as well as site-specific search engines. Although these web-wide tools tend to index a very broad collection of content, it is extremely useful to study them. Of all search systems, none has undergone the testing, usage, and investment that web-wide search tools have, so why not benefit from their research? Many of these tools are available for use on local sites as well.
Before we delve into search systems, we need to make a point: think twice before you make your site searchable.
Your site should, of course, support the finding of its information. But don’t assume that a search engine alone will satisfy all users’ information needs. While many users want to search a site, some just want to browse it. We suggest you consider the following questions before committing to a search system for your site.
How much content is enough to ...