Onsite Search in Transition: Navigation or Search Centric Design?

Seek and you shall find - as the Bible says. But today, fewer and fewer users have the patience to embark on a long search for information. Those who don't get answers within a few clicks change websites.


Companies have recognized this and relied on structured content that can be found primarily via navigation. But this approach has had its day. It has been replaced by Search Centric Design (SCD), which focuses on search. But is navigation really dead and what opportunities and limitations does SCD reveal? Together with experts, the article explores these questions.

Significance: Why Search Centric Design is so important

One of Amazon's recipes for success is user-friendliness. This is already evident on the home page. Here, the search function at the height of the logo invites users to browse. Why is this so promising? One reason knows Hans Even, Managing Director TWT Digital Group: "Navigation no longer works. User behavior on the Internet has changed decisively as a result of Google. Web presences are becoming more and more complex and contain a multitude of different files and subpages."

So if you only rely on navigation here, you make it more difficult for your users to find what they are looking for. What's more, SCD increases the likelihood of purchase and the conversion rate. In the best case, the customer will even come back. In addition, the web design concentrates on what is necessary and is not distracting. In this context, the following aspect is also important: "SCD, especially in combination with Anticipatory Design, can increase the usability of a website enormously", adds Roland Leisse, Director Business Consulting and Creation at Arvato. "Predictive search or phonology-based correction suggestions can be implemented with many modern search frameworks and enable more intuitive, on-demand search."

This form of search is not only desired by a large number of users, it is actually expected. No wonder, since they are used to a high search experience through Google and Co.

Boundaries: When Search Centric Design Pays Off

Rushing into search-focused design now is not recommended. Because this trend is not suitable for all companies. Primarily companies that offer a large and confusing product portfolio benefit. Companies that provide a lot of information can also use search to better address their visitors and deliver added value.

"Search Centric Design is particularly important in the B2C sector to secure competitive advantages" knows Godelef Kühl, founder and CEO of Godesys. He adds, "But Search Centric Design can also be helpful and useful in intranets to support employees." Especially for the growing mobility of employees. Retrieving data on the go is becoming increasingly important. Especially when the intranet is seen as a knowledge repository.

But for this approach to be successful, companies need to plan carefully, develop a strategy and use the right software. Search Centric Design can only really unfold its potential if the search functions smoothly, quickly and satisfactorily. Otherwise, the hoped-for added value for the user will not materialize.

Conclusion: Is navigation really dead?

Despite the opportunities, SCD is not a panacea. This is also evident in the case of products or services that require explanation. Here it makes sense not to declare navigation dead, but to offer users both: A coherent menu structure and a convenient page search. After all, some visitors may not yet be clear about what they are looking for. That's why combining the approaches is a viable solution. Then, even for different search types, the motto applies: He who searches, finds - and quickly.


Matthias weber is the managing director of MWBSC. MWBSC is a full-service provider for the special topic of enterprise software. In addition to general enterprise resource planning (business), the Munich-based company also focuses on the disciplines of software development (software) and ERP consulting (consulting).

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