This guide is part of our series about geosearch.
- What is geosearch?
- Why is geosearch needed?
- What consumers expect from location search
- Technical challenges of location search
Choosing the Right Data Source
Design and User Interface
Implementing a great-looking autosuggest search capability isn't necessarily challenging. The challenge is in setting it up on your website or mobile app in a way that functions just as well as it looks. One of the biggest considerations should be whether the search capability will function on desktop, mobile or both. Mobile searches tend to have different objectives and a higher level of urgency than desktop searches. For example, while desktop searches are more likely to focus on research, mobile searches often occur at a point of action. If the geosearch capability is at a purchase point or part of a navigation app, focus just as much effort on the ease of use of its mobile functionality as desktop. Another factor to account for is the length of visible text in geosearch results. This is especially important if the geosearch capability needs to pull results globally or from a location where addresses are typically longer. Otherwise, geosearch results are not as helpful if there are several addresses that begin with the same words or numbers. Finally, consider selecting a tool that can work with accessibility functions such as voice-to-text capabilities so that your website or app is useful to a larger audience and won't frustrate users who require these features.
Bias in Mobile and Web Searches
Whether a user is on their desktop or a mobile app, they can benefit from searches that return results with a bias toward their current location. For example, web use cases such as job applicant sites or doctor registration portals can use browser geolocation to narrow geosearch results to locations near a job site's city or doctor's office. Without doing so, the geosearch tool could return many irrelevant results. Similarly, geosearch that's part of a mobile app can use the app's location permissions along with the user's stored address to return suggestions. This would be helpful for user registrations such as for a hotel or Airbnb that requires a permanent address to secure the reservation.
Accounting for Technical Issues
When providing results, a geosearch tool should account for:
- Too many results (e.g., the user starts the search with "Main St"): limit results such as by prioritizing more common selections and limiting the number of suggestions.
- Typos and misspellings: recognize and correct commonly mistyped words.
- Abbreviations: correlate abbreviated search terms with the complete entries in the database.
- Determine location relevancy: account for the purpose of the search when showing results. For example, if the search is for an address on a retail checkout page, results should only include relevant residential or business addresses, not those for landmarks.
Privacy and Data Protection
The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets strict directives regulating how companies around the world can collect, use, and store personal data from EU citizens. As other countries and states develop similar legislation (such as The California Consumer Privacy Act), it's vital that organizations adhere to personal data protection laws - or risk paying a significant fine. If your organization uses a third-party geosearch tool to collect data from consumers, then you become responsible for handling that data correctly.
Build Vs. Buy
If you have a large in-house development team, you might consider building a geosearch tool instead of buying access to one. There are a few factors to consider before making that decision.
Pricing usually depends on usage, or how many searches are completed in a set period. Paying for a tool typically includes maintenance, updates and support but with lower costs if the provider has a large customer base. Building the tool yourself means that you pay for the design, testing, new developments and maintenance, and support is an internal responsibility as well.
Buying a geosearch tool will let you get started much more quickly than developing one in-house. In addition, there will likely be training opportunities as well to get your team up and running.
With a purchased solution, you must follow the terms and conditions of the vendor. However, when you build a tool, you're free to use it however you see fit as long as you follow government regulations like GDPR.