Website Search for Higher Education

3:00 pm in sponsors by guest

The economic challenges faced by web managers in the HE sector are a key theme of this year’s IWMW. Providing effective website search can be a surprisingly efficient way to ensure that the results from your web investments are maximised and can even save you money.

Offering fast and usable access to your online information ensures that users can find what they’re looking for on your websites. This makes your sites more usable, maximises the productivity of staff and enhances the ROI on your business information. It can also reduce the support costs associated with enquires and customer service, and improve the promotion of courses and research.

Benefits of effective website search for Higher Education

There are a number of ways in which investment in effective search can deliver handsome returns:

  1. If prospective students can’t find the information or course that they’re interested in, they are likely to leave the website and look at the next institution on their hitlist. The easier it is for them to find course information, the more likely they are to enrol at the university.
  2. Easy access to information on the web, for both students and staff, can significantly reduce support costs related to handling email, telephone or in-person enquiries.
  3. Staff productivity can improve with time-efficient location of policies, procedures and other online resources.
  4. Potential donors, investors, and business partners may be deterred if they are unable to find the information about staff, projects, activities and research in which they are interested.
  5. The university’s media profile can be increased if journalists are able to locate appropriate people to interview and quote.
  6. Monitoring searches on your website through the use of reports can help to highlight areas of the site which need to be tweaked to meet user demand, and can also highlight documents which need to have their content or metadata adjusted to improve their search visibility –also benefiting SEO for external search engines.

Things to consider for your Website Search

There are a huge number of factors to take into account when appraising and improving your website search, or when selecting a new search product. These factors will depend on your website objectives and the needs of your users, but s a starting point, think about the following things:

  1. Given the importance of these potential returns from a high quality search facility, it is worth clearly assigning the responsibility of monitoring and maintaining the search function within the web management team, ideally to a dedicated “SearchMaster”.

  2. Consider the additional features that you need from a search solution, beyond effective search results. Features such as analytics, reporting, alerts, faceted navigation, spelling suggestions, multi-lingual capabilities, query autocompletion and contextual navigation can all play a vital role in improving the user experience and search effectiveness.
  3. What is the most appropriate deployment option for the search facility? Whether you go for a hosted, cloud based or installed solution will depend on the level of your in-house technical resources, how much support you will need and the degree of flexibility, security and control you’d like to have over your search.

We’ll be on hand at the IWMW to discuss these and other issues, and will also be offering demos of Funnelback Search, our Website and Enterprise Search solution, as well as our Content Management System, MySource Matrix. Be sure to pop by and see us.

By Hannah Cooper from Squiz and David Hawking from Funnelback. Squiz will have a stand at the IWMW 2010 exhibition.