To search or not to search?

Tags: Self-service, Customer experience, IT Service Management

Efecte self-service portal users now have the power of choice.

Have you ever taken the time to think about how you find the items or information you are looking for on a particular web page? Do you think a web page is not any good if you don’t have a search box to find what you need? Or do you prefer browsing through a well-constructed site and maybe find a little bit more than you expected?

I have been spending a healthy amount of time studying navigation and search best practices, and learned it is not as straightforward as it would seem. A lot depends on the layout of the page and how content is organized. Previous research by Katz & Byrne (2003) and McGovern (2010) indicates that most users have a preference to browsing over search, although they recognize that both methods deliver results. In the end, it might be the structure of the site which ultimately makes visitors choose the approach.

With browsing, the key to delightful user experience is driven by clever design of what the user is exposed to. A great navigational structure with a clear and visible layout will deliver best results. I think this holds true for corporate services, since users expect the same qualities regardless of the service they use. However, this still might not be enough as users become more demanding and sites become more diverse.

The need for search functionality further increases as content gets more complex and rich. It is easy to get distracted when you have more data and options visible, no matter how cleverly designed the pages are. With search, things get easier, especially when you come to the page with a specific mission in mind. If you know you want to get the latest Samsung S9 phone, using a search function will most likely get you there fastest. On the other hand, search requires the individual to use their memory, meaning well-structured navigation might still be the solution for many. With search you always have to consider multiple factors contributing to the success of the search, such as misspelling of search terms.

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With Efecte’s self-service portal, the approach has traditionally been to provide an intuitive user experience on the home page. We strive to make it easy for the users to find what they are looking for through logically organizing the data on the page. We’ve received plenty of positive feedback for the visually appealing and easy-to-understand design. For the navigation to work properly and allow users to easily find what they are looking for, it calls for our customers to put thought into how their data is organized. The need for such thought processes remains, even now as search is introduced further into our self-service portal.

Search functions have actually existed in the self-service portal as part of incident reporting for some time now. As users describe their problem, a search presents them with relevant knowledge base articles to the issue they are describing, thus helping users to solve problems on their own. This proven design and user experience are the foundation on which the new search capabilities are built.

With the new release we are happy to answer to the needs of all the searchers out there. Users will be given the option to search for service offers, request history, knowledge base articles and more - directly from the home page. The search kicks in as users start typing, providing a user experience very close to common practices at web stores and other websites. The search results presented will take users quickly to the selected item, allowing for faster results.

As with everything else in Efecte’s Edge solutions, searching on self-service portal is a visual tool. For the best possible experience, extensive use of visuals for products, services, or incident reporting is recommended. These images will be visible in the search results, enriching the overall experience. This, in turn, will help users find the right items while interacting with the corporate service.

I’d be happy to hear your experiences on how navigating and search come together with our solution. Your feedback allows us take further steps in developing our solution in the right direction.

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Saku Sulander

Written by Saku Sulander

At Efecte, I am the product manager for the service management tool. I have an interest in how the corporate and end-users work together and believe good communication is the cornerstone behind every success story. Through a passion for understanding the end-user and business needs, I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.