Spelling Suggestions Are Essential for Usability07 Dec 2009
Any regular Google user will be familiar with its spelling suggestions. Google’s Did you mean feature enables users to rapidly correct typing and spelling mistakes with a single click. Spelling suggestions also solve a more difficult problem for users: how to spell a word, phrase or name that they don’t know how to spell at all, especially when those words, phrases and names are in foreign languages. Users can start with their best guess and let Google match their attempt with the correct spelling. The correct spelling is usually found in one or two search iterations.
Any website that encourages users to search for its content should provide spelling suggestions. For example, websites about films and TV programs should provide suggestions because users often spell the names of actors incorrectly. Exact matching of the users’ search terms is unhelpful because it often returns no results, which is particularly frustrating for users when their spelling of an actor’s name is almost correct. Websites that sell products should provide spelling suggestions because every search that doesn’t return the products users are looking for is a lost potential sale.
Google’s suggestions are highly accurate because of its enormous database and computing power. Most websites won’t have a fraction of Google’s resources but they don’t need to. The more specialized the content of a website and the products for sale, the more constrained the search vocabulary and the greater the accuracy of the search results. Partial matching techniques enable most websites to search their entire content and product list for matches close to their users search terms.