Site search best practice tips: Visual search results pages

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Site Search Best Practice: Visual Results Pages
At Colbenson we like to share our expertise in e-commerce site search and have created a series of Site Search Best Practice tips.

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but some pictures are worth more than others.

A search engine results page with images usually converts more effectively than one without, but it's not just a matter of slapping a few pictures on and waiting for the numbers to go north.

Here are some top tips to consider when adding images to results pages.

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Site search best practice tips: Visual search results pages

  1. 1. SearchBroker  by  Colbenson  www.colbenson.com          Site  Search  Best  Practice  Tips    At  Colbenson  we  like  to  share  our  expertise  in  e-­‐commerce  site  search.  On  our  website  we  have  stacks  of  information  and  useful  content  to  help  you  maximize  the  potential  of  site  search  in  your  online  store.      Top  Tips  for  Visual  Search  Results  Pages    A  picture  might  be  worth  a  thousand  words,  but  some  pictures  are  worth  more  than  others.    A  search  engine  results  page  with  images  usually  converts  more  effectively  than  one  without,  but  its  not  just  a  matter  of  slapping  a  few  pictures  on  and  waiting  for  the  numbers  to  go  north.    Here  are  some  top  tips  to  consider  when  adding  images  to  results  pages.      1. Do  you  really  need  images?    Okay,  we  did  just  say  that  pictures  are  good,  but  there  are  some  exceptions,  especially  on  channels  which  are  bandwidth-­‐challenged  such  as  mobiles.    For  example,  if  youre  ordering  pizza  via  a  mobile  app,  providing  photos  may  do  more  harm  than  good  to  the  impatient  and  hungry  customer  forced  to  wait  while  the  image  downloads.    Remember,  the  objective  of  images  on  the  results  page  is  to  increase  click-­‐through  rates.  If  this  isnt  the  case  then  maybe  you  dont  actually  need  pictures  (or  maybe  youre  not  doing  it  right).    So  dont  rush  to  stick  any  old  photo  on  every  page  on  every  channel.  If  the  visual  image  is  less  important  to  your  products  then  slowing  down  the  delivery  of  the  results  page  may  not  be  worth  the  benefit.            
  2. 2. SearchBroker  by  Colbenson  www.colbenson.com  2. Make  the  picture  big  enough  to  see  without  a  microscope    Tiny  thumbnails  that  you  can  barely  distinguish  from  a  dirty  mark  on  the  screen  can  do  more  harm  than  good.  If  users  have  to  spend  time  squinting  to  try  to  decipher  the  picture,  the  only  business  that  will  see  a  rise  in  sales  is  the  local  optician.    The  picture  must  be  big  enough  to  be  useful.    The  customer  must  be  able  to  get  a  quick  and  engaging  idea  of  the  product,  and,  if  relevant,  be  able  to  recognise  the  packaging  or  cover  to  gain  confidence  that  they  are  buying  the  right  thing.      3. Choose  the  right  photo    The  key  to  picking  the  right  photo  is  to  focus  on  the  source  of  customer  satisfaction.  If  this  is  aesthetic,  such  as  clothing,  furnishings  or  decoration,  then  the  only  option  is  the  product.    For  some  other  products,  there  is  a  bit  of  flexibility.  If  the  key  factor  is  flavour  intensity,  you  can  show  a  flavour  chart.  If  the  important  point  is  where  its  from,  you  can  show  a  map.  This  is  a  bit  more  risky,  and  so  lends  itself  well  to  A/B  testing:  try  different  images  and  see  which  works  best.    If  youre  selling  a  service,  it  may  be  tempting  to  use  an  off-­‐the-­‐shelf  library  photo  of  a  happy  family  or  a  smartly-­‐dressed  group  of  diverse  business  people  enjoying  a  particularly  productive  meeting.  The  problem  is  that  these  stock  photos  are  overused  and  have  become  visual  clichés  that  just  dont  mean  anything  anymore.    If  you  are  selling  something  intangible  you  should  still  consider  images,  but  make  sure  they  mean  something.      4. Add  useful  explanatory  text    A  picture  on  its  own  may  or  may  not  actually  speak  a  thousand  words,  but  if  it  does,  it  likely  speaks  different  words  to  different  people.    This  is  why  its  important  to  minimize  ambiguity  and  add  explanatory  text.    If  the  text  doesnt  quite  fit,  you  can  use  an  elipsis  or  fade  out  to  show  that  there  is  more  text.  Id  recommend  the  latter,  have  the  word  fade  out  by  lightening  the  colour  of  the  text  toward  the  end.  This  shows  that  there  is  more  text  without  occupying  scarce  space  with  an  elipsis.    However,  if  youre  having  to  fade  out  the  text  on  a  lot  of  images,  you  may  need  to  think  about  redesigning  to  avoid  this.  The  fade  should  be  the  exception.  
  3. 3. SearchBroker  by  Colbenson  www.colbenson.com      5. Allow  the  customer  to  judge  the  actual  size    If  all  your  products  look  the  same,  or  if  the  customer  cant  get  a  feel  for  the  product  in  a  physical  sense,  they  will  be  confused  and  put  off  making  an  online  purchase.    In  many  cases,  size  is  important.  For  example,  if  you  want  to  buy  a  camera  to  fit  inside  your  pocket  or  a  small  bag,  then  you  need  confidence  that  its  not  going  to  turn  up  the  size  of  a  house  brick.    If  size  is  key  to  the  product,  then  show  it  next  to  something  of  a  known  size  such  as  a  coin  or  a  drinks  can.  This  also  gives  a  bit  of  space  for  reinforcing  your  brand  identity.  For  example,  a  brand  associated  with  timeless  classic  designs,  may  choose  to  picture  its  products  next  to  a  Champagne  flute.      The  most  important  thing  is  to  remember  that  in  designing  visual  results  pages  (SERPs)  its  all  about  click-­‐through  rates  (CTR).  If  it  doesnt  increase  CTR,  then  however  beautiful  or  well-­‐designed  it  may  be,  its  not  working  and  needs  to  change.    

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