Jacob Nielsen recently posted an interesting article on how to improve the usability of website search, given that users are typically so poor at using search effectively. In order to design for mediocre searchers, he cited the example of Costco, where for general search terms, such as "television", instead of returning search results, users are redirected to the appropriate category page for that product type.
For some reason, not many websites do this, particularly within the ecommerce world. To my mind, it makes perfect sense, and is what we do on Supercircuits.com. Most of the time, I would imagine that users don't even realize they are not looking at search results any more. As long as they see relevant content as a result of their search — i.e., the scent of information remains strong — they don't care where they are in the site, just that they are closer to their goal.
As a Magento user, despite having a poor search overall, it does have redirect functionality built in (along with synonyms). So, it's just a matter of reviewing your most common high-level search terms and redirecting them to the appropriate product category.
Magento edit search term screen
This also works well for content searches on ecommerce sites. Often, an ecommerce site search does not even return non-product related results (such as blog posts, or your location or contact page), or it hides them away in a separate tab on the results page. If a user is searching for your contact page, better to send them directly to that page than make them hunt for it, even if you do provide it in your search results.
I set myself a weekly and monthly task to review my top search terms (which I track in Google Analytics), which ensures that I can see if any new redirects need to be created.
Posted on: April 28, 2013 | 2 Comments