6.9 Site Search

“Search” is a standard facility on any website now as visitors expect to be guided to the desired information and service through an easy to use search facility. Effective search functionality is crucial for mining through the large volumes of information made available on Government websites. Following are some of the guidelines to achieve the same:


Government websites MUST include either a “Search” box or a link to a “Search” page from every page of the website. The search box or link must be titled “Search”, as it is a standard term understood by web surfers world over. As per internationally accepted Usability principles, search boxes are most effective when placed in the same position on all pages (usually within the upper third part of the webpage). (Ref. WCAG 2.4.5)


Search results should be displayed in an easy-to-read format that, at a minimum, shows visitors the term(s) they searched for and may highlight the term(s) in each search result. Search results should be marked with an HTML heading so that the screen reader users can quickly locate search results.


Departments should carefully determine the scope of their search index to determine which content should be included and which content should be excluded. This further implies that the content not meant to be in the public domain should not be included in any web-based file that could be retrieved through any search engine.


The frequency of indexing the content of a Government website should be predecided by the hosting provider. Content that is added and updated frequently, such as press releases, should be indexed more frequently.


Government Departments should regularly use traffic analysis tools to identify the common search terms used to reach their website. This shall enable a higher ranking of the site on search engines after due customisation.


Although usability research indicates that very few people use “advanced” search features, Departments should allow visitors to conduct more refined, focused searches to achieve more relevant results.


Considering the fact that many people are unfamiliar or unskilled at using search technology, the website should provide help, hints, or tips, and include examples, along with its search facility to aid the visitors.


Users may expect the site index/search to access all the appropriate content and not display content from outside the site. In case the search results reflect the results from outside the website, it should be clearly distinguished and mentioned on the top of the page.