Autocomplete and autosearch
When you search, it is nice to get suggestions for search terms that will yield a result while you are typing. This automatic completion is called autocomplete.
Pandosearch can also return search results directly as you type. We call this autosearch.
This article explains in more depth how this works and how you can use both variants in the search function on your website.
Autocomplete: showing search suggestions
Within autocomplete there are two types of search suggestions: completions and predictions. Both types can be suggested to users as they type. We will explain them both below.
Completions: finishing a word
Completions are suggestions to complete typed characters into a full word. For example, if you were to search on pandosearch.com and would type “pr” into the search bar, you would get “prices” and “product” as suggestions. You can click it (or navigate to it with the arrow keys) to search directly.
Pandosearch only suggests words for which actual search results exist. This prevents people from following a suggestion that does not yield anything.
In practice, this results in visitors getting relevant search results faster than if they had to type the whole word “prices” or “product” first. It also provides visitors with immediate feedback, guiding them in the right direction and reducing the likelihood of spelling and typing errors.
Predictions: filling in the next word
In addition to completing a partial word, Pandosearch can also make suggestions for the next word. We call these suggestions predictions. By default, we return them in two cases:
- If the search term entered ends with a space (“ “). We will then assume that the visitor intends to type the next word.
- If Pandosearch did not find any completions for the search term entered, we will assume that the visitor has finished the word they just typed.
In both cases, Pandosearch will provide suggestions for subsequent words based on all the information we have indexed.
An example: if you type “home” without a space in a web shop, you might get suggestions for products like “homebrew”, but if you type “home” with a space, you might get suggestions like “home cinema”.
Please note that the actual configuration for autocomplete may vary by implementation. Some examples:
- In mutual consultation we may disable predictions altogether, e.g. if they have no added value on top of completions.
- We can also return predictions as their own data points in our API, enabling website builders themselves to choose how they want to display this data to visitors.
- If desired, we can also return the originally typed term as an autocomplete suggestion, for example, to show it in a drop-down menu below the search bar.
The best option is determined by what the underlying data looks like and how the website to which Pandosearch is linked is structured. In our experience, small details can sometimes make all the difference to the user experience. If you have any questions about this, please contact our support team.
Autosearch: showing search results immediately
In addition to suggestions for search terms, Pandosearch can also display search results directly based on a partial search term.
If we go back to the first example, Pandosearch will probably also immediately return the “Prices” and “Product” web pages when typing “pr”. You can then display these results directly as hyperlinks in a drop-down menu below the search bar.
Visitors can use this to go straight to the page they are looking for without having to see the full list of search results first. The value of this is that visitors can find what they are looking for even faster.
Note that showing direct search results is not always better than showing suggestions for search terms. After all, direct search results are less exact by definition, because they are based on a partial search term.
Therefore, depending on the specific customer situation (e.g. the type of content and the way the search is offered to visitors), it may or may not be worthwhile to show direct search results more prominently than search term suggestions.
The latter is always ultimately our customer’s choice, and we are happy to help by advising on the basis of our expertise and experience.
Finally, here is some technical background information for those who want more in-depth knowledge. To enable autocomplete and autosearch, we analyse all the text marked as relevant during indexing. We make sure that, for each letter combination, we know which words exist in all the indexed information, so we only ever make relevant suggestions. This prevents visitors from getting suggestions for which there are no search results.
Autocomplete suggestions and autosearch results are returned during serving.
Technical documentation about autocomplete can be found under Suggest in the Pandosearch API documentation.