In a recent discussion I was having with an eCommerce VP on the merits of investing in Enterprise Search before you start driving a lot of traffic to your site, I was reminded of an experience I had many years ago while working with Dell. It was the holiday shopping season and one of my daughters, then in high school, came to me asking for a digital camera as her primary gift. This daughter had researched the digital camera market online and pronounced that Best Buy offered the best price on this particular camera. Imagine, me working for Dell, and my daughter shopping for electronics at Best Buy.
So I challenged my daughter by asking if she had visited Dell.com. She said very clearly and quickly, “No Daddy, Dell doesn’t sell cameras, why would I go there?”
Well of course she was wrong, but this was just the problem we were facing in attempting to enter the software and peripherals business. Dell was a computer brand and no more. So I asked her to go to Dell.com and see for herself (first hand usability – yahoo). She went to the site and then came the moment of truth. How easy would it be to navigate to cameras?
Pretty important lesson learned that day – she didn’t care to navigate this site at all, or any site for that matter. She went to the search box and typed in the camera name and model number. OMG! What was going to happen now? I had too much knowledge about how search was deployed and managed (many years ago now) and I feared the worse. Well, low and behold, it popped up and was in fact cheaper – even before my employee discount – phew.
It was this experience that helped me early on to appreciate not simply what it meant to be indexed and easily found by the search engines, but also what it meant to have a very solid onsite (aka enterprise) search experience. In my mind, the early moral was invest in search first and pretty navigation second, but do invest in both because your site may be the first they visit when they’re not sure what exactly they’re looking to buy. If all goes well, your site will be the last.