Designing usable search UX

By analyzing user search patterns, simplifying information architecture, and building a mobile-first experience with faceted filtering, and a robust content taxonomy, we transformed our search interactions into relevant, easy to use tools to discover our site’s content.

Designing usable search UX


Our website's search functionality was a labyrinth of frustration. Users struggled to find desired products due to an outdated search engine, limited filters, and a lack of personalization. This resulted in low conversion rates and a compromised user experience.


We needed a complete overhaul to create a search experience that was intuitive, efficient, and catered to diverse user needs.


User experience designer and analyst

Discovery phase

Our journey began with a deep dive into user behavior. We analyzed search query logs, conducted user interviews, and ran eye-tracking studies to understand how users interacted with the search function. This research identified pain points such as difficulty finding specific products, unclear search results, and a lack of filtering options. We also investigated desired functionalities, like autocomplete suggestions and the ability to search by product attributes.

Next, we conducted a comprehensive audit of our website's content structure. This included product descriptions, category organization, and metadata (tags and keywords associated with products). The analysis revealed inconsistencies in categorization and a lack of rich, descriptive content that could improve search relevance.

To gain even deeper user insights, we developed detailed user personas representing different customer segments. These personas outlined user search behaviors, differentiating between new users browsing by category and experienced users searching for specific products with keywords.

Search queries analysed and patterns identified

Design phase

Based on our research, we implemented a more robust search engine capable of handling complex queries, typos, and variations in word stems (recognizing synonyms and related words). This improved search accuracy and efficiency, ensuring users found the products they were looking for, regardless of how they phrased their searches.

We also introduced faceted search functionality, allowing users to filter results based on specific criteria like price range, brand, color, size, and other relevant product attributes. This empowered users to refine their searches quickly and navigate directly to products that met their needs.

We restructured and optimized our content taxonomy, ensuring product categories and subcategories aligned with user expectations and search patterns. This resulted in a more intuitive browsing experience, making it easier for users to find what they were looking for without relying solely on the search bar.

We revamped our metadata schema, ensuring product descriptions, titles, and associated tags were accurate, descriptive, and keyword-rich. This enhanced search engine optimization (SEO) and improved the relevance of search results displayed to users. Additionally, we explored the integration of AI tools to personalize search results based on user browsing history and purchase behavior. The potential to dynamically present seasonal and trending content within search results was also considered to further enhance the user experience.

Some MVP Search interaction concepts in mobile layouts
Centre lookup input field design used across forms

User Interface principles

We prioritized a user-friendly search bar design with features like autocomplete suggestions for faster query formulation, dropdown menus for filtering options, and clear visual cues to indicate selected filters. This minimized user effort and facilitated efficient searches.

We introduced various search result formats, including grid layouts for browsing a large number of products, list views for a more concise overview, and detailed product cards showcasing key information. The chosen format would depend on user preferences and the type of search conducted (browsing vs. specific product search).

We utilized Javascript to dynamically refine search results based on user interactions with filters. This provided real-time updates on the search page, eliminating the need for constant page refreshes and improving the overall search experience.

We explored the potential of integrating XML collections. These are structured data files that can categorize and manage product information efficiently. This could be particularly valuable for large product catalogs or products with complex attribute sets.

Sequential mobile menu interaction
Search bar UI component added to the design system

Testing & Iteration

We conducted A/B testing to compare the effectiveness of different design elements and search functionalities.  For example, we might test different layouts for the search bar or compare the effectiveness of grid vs. list view for product search results. This data-driven approach ensured we implemented the most user-friendly solution that maximized user satisfaction and search efficiency.

We established ongoing monitoring of search analytics to track user behavior, identify common search queries, and measure the effectiveness of the new search system. This continuous feedback loop allows for further improvements and feature iterations based on real user data.

Getting started with Data studio in my new team — Guildford


The improved search experience led to a significant increase in conversion rates, showcasing the direct impact on business goals by making it easier for users to find the products they want to buy.

User feedback indicated a marked improvement in search efficiency and overall user satisfaction with the website. Users were able to find the information they needed more quickly and easily.

The modular design of the search system and the integration of AI tools allows for future scalability and personalization. This ensures the search experience remains optimized as user needs and technology evolve.

Lessons Learned

#1 User-Centered Design is Key — Understanding user search behavior and tailoring the search experience to their needs is paramount for success.

#2 Continuous Optimization — Search optimization is an ongoing process. Constant monitoring, user testing, and data analysis allow for continuous improvement and adaptation.

#3 The Power of Technology — Leveraging AI and search engine advancements empowers a dynamic and personalized search experience for users.

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