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Why important

Site search is a critical navigational device and the most likely alternative to using the site’s main information architecture. Some sites now present search as the first choice navigation route. As with external search, customers expect to be taken directly to a top task from the internal search.


Up to eight search terms (according to type of council) were tested. Reviewers also provided an overall rating for search based on their experience across the various tasks tested. 71% of sites met the Better connected standard - exactly the same as in 2014.

Overall results


Achieved standard

The standard
  • At least a score of 6 from 8 (single tier)
  • At least a score of 6 from 8 (county councils)
  • At least a score of 5 from 7 (shire districts)
  • At least a score of 3 from 5 (NI districts)
  • Use of search engine rated satisfactory or very good
All councils CC SD MD EU SU WU LB
Search (% pass) 71% 78% 68% 72% 73% 72% 68% 88%

KEY CC = County Council, SD = Shire district, LB = London borough, MD = Metropolitan district, EU = English unitary, WU = Welsh unitary, SU = Scottish unitary, NI = Northern Ireland district


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Good practice

Better connected recommends the following good practice for searches:

  • Search box in same place on every page and empty when first clicked.
  • Scope of what is being searched is clear, e.g. whole or part of site, related sites, anything excluded from search.
  • Flexible search criteria offered, e.g. keywords and categories so that many combinations can be easily carried out.
  • How searches using more than one word and using punctuation are dealt with is clear.
  • Advanced search features that allow refinement of initial search results and document searches are available .
  • Simple tips for using search are provided.
  • Alternative spellings or ‘do you mean’ is offered for misspelt words.

For search results:

  • Meaningful title and description or extract that indicates the page’s content clearly is provided.
  • A date for the material, if relevant is provided.
  • Most useful pages presented first.
  • Sources of items found is shown.
  • Whether found items are web pages or documents (with format).
  • Navigation from the results page is offered: ‘back’ (back button) to search page and ‘home’ to home page.
  • Facility to refine results (e.g. by filtering) is offered.


Sites that we recommend

Reviewers found 61 councils providing very good search. Those picked for mention in the Better connected 2015 report included:




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