Recently we had some stats produced by our very excellent stats system* . On top of the stuff we normally get, we set the system up so as determine information on our search; we have recently moved search engines you see and we were just curious.
Perhaps, well not perhaps, definitely, we should have looked at this area before but there is only so much you can do. Anyway the upshot was that it showed the percentage of visitors who used our search is around the 10% mark with a very low percentage of failed searches.
Blimey we thought that’s a small amount of people who use the search. Especially given the search results page is in our top five pages by number. We thought the percentage of users who found their information that way would be high, much higher in fact, than was shown.
We contacted Nedstat so as to ensure the code is right and to ask their opinion on the percentage. “Oh no” they said, “that percentage would be considered slightly on the high end of the 7-10% average”.
We were shocked. Here we were believing our navigation is pants and people could not get to stuff they were looking for at all. We’ve had the odd comment on this of course but the odd comment amongst millions of users is no indication. And the facts disprove our assumption.
We, like many of you, will have realised providing a navigation system for content as widely varying as that provided by local government is never going to be easy – but did any of you realise we (local government) are seemingly quite good at doing it?
A while back, well 6 years or more, I threatened to produce a site with no navigation just a giant search box, like Westminster in fact. I was pilloried by my internal colleagues. Unbeknown to them, and indeed me, they were right. I would have seriously annoyed 90% of our customers who get to their data by navigation, or direct link of course.!
Back to those that do search… vast amounts of pages are discovered this way. So there are, relatively, not many people who do search, but the amount of pages viewed that way is vast.
So what’s the moral of this story?
- Navigation probably works better than you think, it seems.
- Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when re-designing your page navigation.
- Make your search as good as it can be.
Both work for different people and both are of major importance.
*we use Nedstat to provide our statistical information.