When you begin to design your site search experience, one of the first questions you face is how many columns of items do you want to display.  More columns means more product results will be seen above the fold but fewer columns makes for larger product images and room for more product information.  How do you decide?  What are your customers most likely to prefer?

For some retailers, the answer to these questions has been to let their customers decide.  Most retailers currently provide the option to view search results in a grid view or list view with the default generally being the grid view.  But now, some are expanding their grid view with choices for the number of columns.  In the example below from clothing retailer Boden, searchers are provided with four icons representing their view options.

The default is a five-column layout that includes product names, prices, and color swatches.


For those who want to see more items, Boden provides a six-column layout without any product information.  This works especially well for a clothing shoppers who want to browse lots of styles first.


For customers who want to browse even larger images, Boden provides a four-column layout with the product name, price, and color swatches.


The final option is a list view that includes a product description along with related searches.


From a usability perspective, I liked how Boden went with graphic icons to represent the different views instead of the typical “list view | grid view” text that most sites currently use.


This graphic icon approach can also be seen on the True Religion brand jeans store that uses icons represent either a three or four column layout.


If you like this idea but are not yet ready to abandon text labels, here is a hybrid approach from Kiddicare.com site that includes both text and graphic icons for search view controls.


One of the key takeaways I get from these examples is that site search can be an integral part of your strategies to provide a more personalized experience and one that is more empowering for customers. And being in control over every aspect of the shopping experience is exactly the sort of thing that today’s online shoppers crave.

If you have other ideas for how site search can put customers in charge, please post them in the comments below.

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