The effectiveness of search

As mentioned in our blog post “Searching, looking for content”, we had search at the core of the project to replace the website.

During the top task workshops that we ran in 2017, we heard from people loud and clear that they didn’t like the website search facility. Therefore, we knew we would have the improvement of search at the core of the project.

From the blog post “Searching, looking for content”.

A key objective that we wanted to achieve from any search system was to allow people to get to the correct information faster without getting fed up and leaving the site. The question is, have we achieved it?

If we compare January-April for the last four years we can see that for 2021, when the new search tool was the default, that more people are searching, performing less searches per visit, and they are exiting search less without clicking a result. This indicates that the new search tool is more effective at presenting the correct results and that people are using search more because they trust the results.

 VisitsSearchesSearch exitsSearches per visit% search exits (search exits/visits)
2018 (January-April) 317,02030,0172.2721.45%
2019 (January-April)135,360312,58831,8242.3123.51%
2020 (January-April)134,790297,11032,1512.2023.85%
2021 (January-April)141,890276,55924,4381.9517%
Search analytics from 2018-2021

So early indications are that the work that we’ve completed so far is benefiting our users and getting them to the information they need quickly.

Our legacy search tool updated once per day, whereas our new search tool updates within a few minutes of a new piece of content being created, so users are also getting more real time results as the website changes constantly during a normal working day.

When you use search on the new website you will be searching structured content that is filterable allows you to interrogate the results to better find what you’re looking for . For example, if you were looking for a course, you could select Course, the Course Level (e.g. Undergraduate) and the Start Dates available from the filter options.

Our priority for 2021 is to get the remaining sections of the legacy website migrated to the new website, into structured content, which will make search even more effective.

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