Adding Search Functionality To Your Site
by Mario Sanchez

Having your very own search engine for your site will enable 
your visitors to quickly and easily find just what they are 
looking for, without having to navigate through numerous menus 
or wade through long lists of options. Your users can just type 
in a few keywords for what interests them, and within seconds 
they are shown to the exact pages on your website that are 

Usability studies show us that more than half of all web users 
are search-dominant, meaning that they will go straight to the 
search box when they enter your site, rather than try to find 
information following your navigation links. They are not 
interested in looking around the site but rather in finding 
what they want as fast as possible. 

That is why, if your site has a large number of pages or covers 
a wide variety of topics, we recommend that you set up a search 
engine for your site. There are several services that offer free 
search engines that allow your visitors to search your site. The 
two we have tried are FreeFind ( ) and 
Google ( ). Both of them 
are free and worth a try. 

Freefind is a great option, particularly because you can select 
your desired indexing frequency. This means that if you update 
your site weekly or even daily, you can instruct Freefind's 
spider to crawl your site with that same frequency, so that all 
your pages are indexed (added to the database) as often as you 
update your site. 

Aside from that, you can index up to 3,000 average-size pages 
with your free account, which is more than enough for most 
websites. Also, Freefind automatically generates a site map 
for your site; a site map is a great tool to help your visitors 
navigate your site, and to quickly allow the search engines to 
pick up all your pages when they crawl your site. 

Google also has a free feature that allows you to get a search 
engine for your site, which will give your visitors the option 
of searching the web or only your site. However, this feature 
has its drawbacks. The main one is that only pages that are 
already in Google's database will be displayed in the results, 
and you can't instruct Google to crawl your site at your desired 
frequency. Instead, you will have to wait until Google crawls 
the web (usually once a month) before more of your pages can be 
added to Google's database. Therefore, Google is a good option 
if most of your pages are already indexed and you don't update 
your site that often. 

We recommend that you follow these guidelines when setting 
Search on your site: 

Make the search function easily available from every page on 
your site.

Try to include a search box in the page itself, instead of just 
a text link that takes you to a search page. The search box shape 
is easily recognizable and users will find it much faster than a 
text link. If you don't want to use a search box in all your 
pages, use a search box on your homepage and a link to the 
search page from your interior pages. 

Place the search box in a consistent an easy to find location 
across your site. Based on the observation of numerous important 
websites, the preferred location for the search box seems to be 
the top right corner of the page. 

Try to make the search box wide enough (between 20 and 25 
characters) to accommodate longer queries. 

Label the search button next to the search box with the word 
"Search" (no need to get too fancy or creative with phrases like 
"Take me there" or "Go!". Keep it simple.) 

Finally, please note that installing search functionality is 
no excuse for designing a poor navigation architecture (don't 
forget the other half of your visitors, who are likely to follow 
links rather than search). Users want to know where they are 
within your website at all times, and like to find their way 
around easily. The best way to enable this is: 

To have few but clear navigation options (no need to include 
links to all your pages from all your pages) 

To group your navigation options by subject, and 

To include a "breadcrumb trail" next to the top of the page, 
where you can show your visitors the complete path to the 
current page, starting with your homepage (for example: 
home -> archive -> June 03 -> Web Design Tips ). 

Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest 
( ), a collection of web design 
and Internet marketing tips and resources to help you design a 
better website and market it more effectively.