13 Search with Autocomplete & Suggested Search Best Practices


Are you looking to improve your eCommerce store’s search experience? 

One feature that can make a big difference in your online store is a site search with autocomplete. 

You’ve probably seen this feature on websites like Google and Amazon, where suggested search terms appear as you type in the search bar. 

But did you know that implementing autocomplete search can also increase your website’s conversion rates? 

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of autocomplete search, covering topics like search suggestion, autosuggest vs autocomplete, and the standards that an autocomplete feature should meet to improve your customers’ shopping experience. 

So, let’s get started!

👉 What is autocomplete search?


Autocomplete search is a feature provided by search engines that predicts and suggests the keywords or phrases that a user might be searching for as they start typing into the search bar. 

This real-time feature offers search suggestions based on the initial characters that the user types, which saves them time and effort in completing their search query. 

By predicting the user’s search terms, autocomplete search offers a more efficient and user-friendly way to search for information online. 

The user can select any of the suggested terms to refine their search and be directed to the relevant search results without having to type every character of their query.

✅ 1. Suggestion Search 101: Autosuggest vs Autocomplete – What’s the difference?


When you start typing something in a search box, have you ever noticed that it starts suggesting some words or phrases for you to choose from? 

That’s called autosuggest, also known as suggestive search, predictive search, or search suggestions.

It’s a feature that helps users to find what they are looking for more quickly and efficiently.

Autocomplete, on the other hand, takes it a step further by completing your entry for you without you having to finish typing. 

It’s like the search engine is reading your mind and predicting what you are searching for. 

This can save you a lot of time and effort, especially if you are searching for something with a long or complicated name.

✅ 2. What are the benefits of search engine autocomplete?

Imagine you’re trying to find a new pair of shoes online, but the search bar is just not cutting it. 

You type in “running shoes” and get hit with a million options. Where do you even begin? Frustrating, right?

Now, imagine that same search bar, but with a little help from autocomplete suggestions. 

As soon as you start typing “runn…” the search engine provides suggestions like “running shoes for women,” “best running shoes for beginners,” and “men’s trail running shoes.” 

Suddenly, your search just got a whole lot easier.

That’s the power of search engine autocomplete. 

Giving users suggestions as they type, streamlines the search process and helps customers find what they’re looking for faster. 

And when customers can find what they want quickly and easily, they’re more likely to make a purchase and come back for more.

But it’s not just about making things easier for the customer. 

Autocomplete can also help businesses showcase products that customers may not have considered before. 

So, not only does autocomplete improve the user experience, but it can also boost your conversion rates.

All in all, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

👉 Best Practices for Search with Autocomplete


From providing lightning-fast results to offering personalized and relevant suggestions, there are a number of features that can take your search engine to the next level. 

By paying close attention to these key characteristics, you can ensure that your search engine is delivering the best possible experience for your users.

✅ 1. Set up a ranking system for suggestive search results

To truly provide a top-notch user experience, it’s important to set up a ranking system for your search results. 

Essentially, this means that you need to determine the order in which your autocomplete suggestions are displayed based on their relevance to the user’s search query.

Here are a few key best practices to keep in mind when setting up your ranking system:

➡️ A. Product Popularity 

First, take into account the popularity of each item or category in your inventory. 

For example, if you sell clothing and notice that users frequently search for “t-shirts,” you may want to prioritize that suggestion over others that are less popular.

➡️ B. Search Query Detail

Second, consider the specificity of the search query. 

If a user types in a very specific search term, such as “men’s blue Nike running shoes size 11,” you want to make sure that your autocomplete suggestions reflect that level of detail.

➡️ C. User Behavior

Lastly, it’s important to continually analyze and adjust your ranking system based on user behavior. 

Keep an eye on which search queries are leading to successful purchases and which are not, and use that data to refine your autocomplete results.

✅ 2. Incorporate effective UX design for Search Suggestions

When it comes to search with autocomplete, effective UX design can make all the difference in creating a seamless and intuitive user experience for your customers.

So, what exactly does effective UX design for autocomplete search look like? 

Here are a few key elements to keep in mind:

➡️ A. Legibility 

First, it’s important to make sure that your autocomplete suggestions are easy to read and understand. 

Use a legible font and color scheme that contrasts well with the background of your website. 

Consider the size and spacing of your text to make it easy for users to read, especially on smaller screens.

➡️ B. Accessibility

Another important aspect of UX design for autocomplete search is to make sure that the feature is accessible to all users. 

This means incorporating keyboard navigation and mouse interaction to ensure that users can easily navigate the suggestions and select the item they’re looking for.

✅ 3. Emphasize simplicity

It’s important to remember that your customers are often coming to your website with a specific goal in mind: to find and purchase the products they need. 

One way to make this process easier for them is to emphasize simplicity in your website’s autocomplete search feature.

Simplicity can take many forms when it comes to autocomplete search. 

For example, you may want to limit the number of suggestions that appear to users, only showing the most relevant options based on their search query. 

This can help to prevent overwhelming your customers and allow them to quickly find what they need without sifting through a long list of suggestions.

Another way to emphasize simplicity is to use clear and concise language in your autocomplete suggestions. 

Avoid using technical jargon or industry-specific terms that may not be immediately understandable to your customers. 

Instead, use simple language that accurately reflects the products or categories they’re searching for.

✅ 4. Utilize clear labeling and instructions

When it comes to designing an effective autocomplete search feature for your eCommerce website, implementing clear labeling and instructions is essential.

➡️ A. Search Bar Labeling

First and foremost, it’s important to make sure that the search bar itself is clearly labeled and easy to find on your website. 

Use a descriptive label such as “Search” or “Find Products” to make it clear to users what the search bar is for.

Once users begin typing in the search bar, it’s important to provide clear and concise instructions for how to use the autocomplete feature. 

For example, you may want to include a message that says “Start typing to see suggestions” or “Use the arrow keys to navigate suggestions.” 

This can help prevent confusion and ensure that users understand how to use the feature to its fullest potential.

➡️ B. Autocomplete Terminology

In addition to clear labeling and instructions, it’s also important to consider the language and terminology used in your autocomplete suggestions. 

Use language that is clear and concise, avoiding technical jargon or industry-specific terms that may be unfamiliar to your customers.

Another key element of clear labeling and instructions is to ensure that your autocomplete suggestions accurately reflect the products or categories being searched for. 

Use descriptive and specific labels for your products and categories to make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.

✅ 5. Support both keyboard and mouse interactions


It’s important to ensure that your website’s autocomplete search feature is accessible to all users, regardless of their preferred method of interaction. 

Supporting both keyboard and mouse interactions is a key best practice for achieving this goal.

➡️ A. Keyboard Navigation

Keyboard navigation is especially important for users who prefer to use the keyboard to navigate websites or who may have difficulty using a mouse or trackpad. 

To support keyboard navigation, set up your autocomplete search feature to be fully functional using only the arrow keys and enter keys. 

This means that users should be able to navigate through the suggestions using the arrow keys and select a suggestion by pressing enter.

➡️ B. Mouse Interaction

At the same time, it’s important to ensure that the autocomplete search feature also supports mouse interactions. 

Users who prefer to use a mouse or trackpad should be able to easily select a suggestion by clicking on it with their mouse. 

This means ensuring that your suggestions are clickable and that they respond to mouse hover events.

➡️ C. Mobile Optimization

In addition to supporting both keyboard and mouse interactions, it’s important to make sure that your autocomplete search feature is optimized for touchscreens as well. 

This means ensuring that your suggestions are large enough to be easily tapped with a finger and that the spacing between suggestions is sufficient to prevent accidental clicks.

✅ 6. Design Autocomplete and Search Suggestions with Visual Depth


One thing to keep in mind when designing an effective autocomplete search is the concept of visual depth. 

This refers to using design elements like shading and highlights to create the illusion of depth and hierarchy within the autocomplete suggestions.

Using visual depth in your autocomplete search feature can be really helpful for guiding users’ attention to the most relevant search suggestions and making it easier for them to find what they’re looking for quickly. 

➡️ A. Incorporate a drop-down menu

One great way to incorporate visual depth is by using a drop-down menu design. 

This creates a clear separation between the search bar and the autocomplete suggestions and provides a visual cue that the suggestions are related to the search query.

Within the drop-down menu, you can differentiate between the various suggestions by using shading or highlights. 

For example, you could use a darker shade for the most relevant search suggestion and lighter shades for the least relevant suggestions. 

This can help users identify the most relevant suggestion more easily and guide their attention accordingly.

➡️ B. Add borders or icons

Another design element you could consider using is borders or icons to further differentiate between the search suggestions. 

This can help make your autocomplete search feature more visually engaging and dynamic, as well as functional and aesthetically pleasing.

✅ 7. Monitor and analyze search performance

Monitoring and analyzing the performance of your autocomplete search feature can help you  identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize the user experience.


➡️ A. Click-Through Rate (CTR)

One key metric to monitor is the click-through rate (CTR) of your autocomplete search suggestions. 

This measures the percentage of users who click on one of the suggested products or categories after typing in a search query. 

A low CTR may indicate that your suggestions are not relevant or helpful to users, and may require further optimization.

➡️ B. Conversion Rate

Another important metric to monitor is the conversion rate of users who use the autocomplete search feature. 

This measures the percentage of users who complete a purchase after using the autocomplete search feature. 

If your conversion rate is low for users who use the autocomplete search feature, it may indicate that your search results are not accurately reflecting your product offerings or that your autocomplete feature needs further optimization.

To monitor these metrics, you can use tools such as Google Analytics to track user behavior on your website. 

Set up specific goals and events to track how users interact with your autocomplete search feature and monitor these metrics over time.

✅ 8. Offer Search Suggestions by Category

One effective way to improve the organization of your autocomplete search feature is to offer search suggestions by category.

By offering category-specific search suggestions, you can help users quickly and easily find the products or categories they are looking for. 

This is especially helpful for users who may not know the exact product name or spelling, but do know the category in which the product belongs.

To offer search suggestions by category, consider breaking down your products into clear and distinct categories, such as clothing, accessories, home goods, or electronics.

Then, when users begin typing a search query, provide category-specific suggestions that relate to their search term.

For example, if a user types in “shoes,” your autocomplete search feature could provide category-specific search suggestions such as “women’s shoes,” “men’s shoes,” “kids’ shoes,” or “running shoes.” 

This helps guide users to the specific category they are interested in, rather than providing a long list of unrelated product suggestions.

In addition to improving organization and navigation, offering category-specific search suggestions can also help increase the likelihood of a successful purchase. 

By guiding users to specific categories and related products, you can help them find exactly what they are looking for and streamline the buying process.

✅ 9. Provide Quick Load Times

Imagine you’re on a fashion eCommerce site and you type “bla…” in the search bar. 

The autocomplete feature should instantly suggest options like “black dress,” “black shoes,” “black pants,” and so on. 

As you continue typing, the suggestions should adapt and become more specific, like “black leather boots” or “black cocktail dress.”

This quick and accurate autocomplete feature saves you time and frustration by anticipating your search intent and providing relevant suggestions before you even finish typing. 

But if the autocomplete feature is slow or inaccurate, it can lead to a frustrating user experience and potentially cause you to abandon the website in search of a more user-friendly option.

✅ 10. Include Images in Suggested Search

A picture is worth a thousand product descriptions. 😉

It’s possible that “Oakley Radar EV” doesn’t mean anything to you.


Thumbnails can be pretty useful, you know? 

They can catch your eye and make you want to take a closer look, even if you didn’t know what you were looking for in the first place. 

And if you’re trying to find something specific but can’t remember the name, a thumbnail can be a lifesaver! 

Especially when you’re sifting through a bunch of similar options – with a thumbnail to guide you, it’s easier to spot the one you want. 

So yeah, thumbnails might be small, but they can pack a big punch when it comes to searching for stuff online.

✅ 11. Recognize Typos

Research shows that about 9% of searches contain spelling mistakes.

If you don’t have an advanced site search engine, this could be a problem and result in lost sales.

For instance, let’s say we search for “trekking boots”. 

Even if the store doesn’t have any products listed under that exact name, a search engine equipped with synonym recognition would still be able to suggest walking or trek boots as alternatives. 

However, a search engine that can’t handle synonyms would come up empty-handed.

The same issue arises with spelling errors. 

For example, if we accidentally type “treking” instead of “trekking”, a search engine without spell-check capabilities would fail to produce any results. 

And that could be a missed opportunity for a potential sale.


Again, a basic search engine wouldn’t find any products from those search queries and would show a “No results” screen. 

However, an advanced autocomplete search engine understands what the user means and displays relevant results.

✅ 12. Power Autocomplete Search Results with AI

Did you know that the coolest search engines these days are powered by artificial intelligence? Yeah, that’s right – it’s not just a fancy phrase anymore!

What AI does is analyze your search history to learn about your preferences, and it also looks at the behavior of other customers to give you the best results possible.


➡️ A. The behavior of every individual user

Let’s say you have a sports store and someone searches for boxing bags and hand wraps. 

Now, when they type “gloves” in the search bar, an AI-powered search engine won’t show them just any kind of gloves – it’ll show them boxing gloves, based on their previous searches.

➡️ B. The behavior of the aggregate of customers

So, a good search engine also learns from the rest of the customers and uses that information to manage autocomplete suggestions.

If a lot of customers are clicking on Reebok coats after searching for “coats”, an AI-powered search engine will take notice and show Reebok coats first in its autocomplete suggestions. Cool, right?

✅ 13. Customize Autocomplete Search Results

So what if you could let the search engine know which specific products it must display first?


Fortunately for you, it is possible (as long as we’re talking about a search engine with advanced settings, of course).

Thanks to this option, you can:

  • Promote products that sell well and/or generate a good profit margin
  • Push discounted products
  • Showcase unsold stock to get rid of it

Imagine you run a cosmetics eCommerce and it’s summertime. 

If someone searches for “face moisturizer”, it would be a smart move to have your search engine suggest “face moisturizer with SPF” (that’s Solar Protection Factor, by the way!) first.

Even if the customer wasn’t specifically looking for that product, seeing it pop up might make them think, “Oh wow, that’s exactly what I need!” 

And that’s how you give them a fantastic experience – which, of course, translates to more sales for you! 😉

👉 How to Implement Search Suggestions into Your eCommerce Website

  1. Data Collection:
    • Gather the search queries and keywords that users frequently input into your search bar.
    • Store this data in a structured format, such as a database.
  2. Algorithm Selection:
    • Choose an algorithm for generating search suggestions. Common options include:
      • Prefix Matching: Matching the user’s input to the beginning of search terms.
      • Levenshtein Distance: Calculating the similarity between words.
      • TF-IDF (Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency): Analyzing the importance of keywords.
  3. Backend Setup:
    • Develop a backend system that can handle search suggestions efficiently.
    • Implement the chosen algorithm to generate suggestions based on user input.
  4. Real-Time Updating:
    • Keep your suggestion data up to date in real-time.
    • Add new search queries and remove obsolete ones as user behavior evolves.
  5. User Interface:
    • Design a clean and user-friendly search bar on your platform.
    • Ensure that it displays suggestions as the user types.
  6. User Feedback:
    • Encourage users to provide feedback on the suggestions.
    • Use this feedback to continuously improve the relevance and accuracy of your suggestions.
  7. Performance Optimization:
    • Optimize the performance of your suggestion feature to ensure quick responses, even with a large dataset.
    • Use caching or indexing techniques to speed up the process.
  8. Testing and Quality Assurance:
    • Thoroughly test the search suggestion feature across different devices and browsers.
    • Check for any bugs, slow response times, or inaccuracies.
  9. Privacy Considerations:
    • Respect user privacy by anonymizing and securing search query data.
    • Clearly communicate your data usage and privacy policies to users.
  10. Scalability:
    • Plan for scalability to accommodate increased traffic and data volume as your platform grows.
    • Consider using cloud-based services for scalability and reliability.
  11. Analytics:
    • Monitor user interactions with search suggestions.
    • Analyze the data to identify patterns and improve the suggestions further.
  12. Feedback Loop:
    • Continuously gather user feedback and make iterative improvements.
    • Stay updated with industry best practices to enhance your search suggestion feature.

👉 Is there an easier way to integrate autocomplete suggestions?

Now that you know what a good search engine can do for your eCommerce store, it’s important to note that not all search engines are created equal. 

Basic ones that come with templates might have an autocomplete feature, but it’s usually very limited compared to the advanced ones we talked about earlier.

That’s why you need a smart search engine – one that uses artificial intelligence to learn from your users’ behavior, understands synonyms, and recognizes typos. 

Plus, it should allow you to customize suggestions and prioritize specific products.

Think of it as another tool in your sales strategy arsenal, one that can help you boost conversions in your store. 

In fact, Doofinder – the same search engine we used in this post’s images – has helped customers get 10% to 20% more conversions.

Don’t just take our word for it, though – see for yourself! 

You can try Doofinder for free in your store for 30 days and test out all its features, including the autocomplete feature we’ve been talking about. 

👉 Usability, speed, and relevance = happy customers

Now you know how awesome the autocomplete feature can be! 

Just imagine implementing it on your eCommerce store and giving your users the ability to find everything they need right away. 

No more clicking, no waiting, no more getting lost in a sea of results. 

Let the autocomplete feature take charge and guide your customer straight to what they’re looking for!