Be Helpful (Site Map & Search)
Websites with large quantities of pages or products can easily create a navigational nightmare. Even with properly implemented navigation, visitors often find themselves “lost” and don’t know how to navigate specifically to the information they are seeking. While it’s important to eliminate these frustrations as best as possible, you also want to provide some navigational “short cuts” for your visitors.
Site Map: Site maps provide a one-stop destination that allows your visitors to always be no more than two clicks away from the product or information they want. This is a helpful feature allowing anybody to quickly see what you offer and where to get it, all from a single page.
Site maps are also useful to search engines allowing them to easily crawl and index every page on your site. Most engines will only index a couple of clicks deep with each visit, often taking weeks or months to dig all the way through your site. Site maps can speed up that process by making every page easily accessible to the search spider.
In the same manner that you have a consistent link to the home page, you also want to have a link to the site map on every page as well.
Site Search: A site search feature isn’t required for good navigation, but it can add an extra element of usefulness for your visitors. Allowing your visitors to perform a quick search for the product they are looking for can speed up the conversion process and eliminate site abandonment.
Before implementing a site search feature, consider that most site searches fail to deliver great results. Before making your search feature live, run extensive tests to be sure that results are accurate and relevant. Try using product numbers, brand names, misspellings, etc. If you don’t carry an exact product which may be searched for, be sure to deliver results for the similar or relevant products you do carry. If you can’t make your site search engine perform under all of the above situations then its best not to have a search function at all.