Book Review: Designing Search by Greg Nudelman

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Greg Nudelman, owner of in San Francisco, is a UX specialist with extensive knowledge about and vast experience in search user interfaces.

Over time he has conducted many studies on the usability of internal search engines of large companies. Now, with his second book published little over a year ago and a third book on the way, on mobile design, we thought that it would be a good time to review Designing Search: UX Strategies for eCommerce Success.

Designing Search by Greg Nudelman
In this book, Greg shares cases on the search interfaces of Amazon, Office Depot and Hotmail. The great thing about Greg is his practical approach and examples in this book. Here are just a few of the examples and strategies he discusses in Designing Search.

No matched search results also offers opportunities

How do you deal with zero results pages (that means search results with no matches) and how can you use filter and sort options to get a better user experience for the internal search on your site? Greg discusses in detail, how you should deal with no matched search results. He gives 4 tips to improve your zero search results pages:

  • Apologize for the no-matched search results, by saying: ‘What do you mean’?
  • Give the user an option for a suitable page
  • Create a partial match strategy. For example: show search results, that partially match the users’ keywords
  • Employ multiple content strategies. For example: communicate featured and the top 10 searches from your search engine

Learn your visitors’ filter and sort behavior

Greg stressed in particular that you have to learn the search behaviour of your users.

  • What’s the search intention of your users?
  • Which filters and sorting options do they use?

Based on this feedback  you can get started to improve your search results pages. Greg advises to combine filter and sort options in one drop-down list  to help your visitor in their journey to relevant search results. For example Netflix combines their top 50 sorts with a genres filter!

Learn the do’s and don’ts of filters

Greg indicates the importance of filters in your search results. It is important to put the usability of your website first. How should you tackle filters?

  • Give users the ability to select all products
  • Give users the option to remove filters
  • Choose links or check boxes, where the user can filter their choices

Greg recommends the filter strategy of Amazon, where you  can choose specific categories, or you can select all books from a category. This makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for.

Improve your search results pages

According to Greg, there are much more insights to be retrieved from your internal search engine. Greg’s tips include:

  • Showing related searches
  • Combine search and browsing capabilities with faceted breadcrumbs
  • Provide only filter options that reflect the available inventory

He gives the example of Wal-Mart, where they combine searching and browsing with two completely separate user interfaces. Greg advises to use integrated faceted breadcrumbs, so the user can choose between searching or browsing.

Search for 'ipad' on

Search for ‘ipad’ on


This book will give you more insights into the possibilities of search analytics and how to optimize search interface and functionality with that data.

I was already familiar with the analysis capabilities of search queries, mainly through practice. Now I know the possibilities of how optimizing faceted search, breadcrumbs and categories can improve search results pages and more importantly your visitors’ experience.

My advice, however, is not to read this whole book in one go, it’s very comprehensive. Read the chapters that interest you or are relevant to the situation you find yourself in. Then, like with any other form op optimization, test, test and test. Good luck!

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About Matthew Niederberger

Matthew works as Conversion Optimisation Manager at Ziggo BV. In his free time he enjoys family life as well as digging into online user research material whilst frequently generating some of his own, which he freely shares here on


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