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Chrome “Destination Search” Foiled For Some Retailers?

I’ve recently noticed Chrome’s “Destination Search” doesn’t work for sites with unconventional search-form HTML. Not a big deal itself, but I think there’s a broader lesson there about standards.

OK, what is Chrome “destination search”? Here’s an example. If I start typing “cnn.com”, Chrome suggests “Search cnn.com for <enter query>”:

chrome-cnn-0

If I select that option, or if I finish typing out “cnn.com”, Chrome presents what I’ll call a destination-search box in the address bar or the browser:

chrome-cnn-1

See the light blue search button for the specific site in the address bar? If I enter a query there, Chrome searches CNN for “obama” (or whatever), using CNN’s own site search.

(Note this is different from Google’s Search-Within-A-Site feature, which uses Google Search, and of which I’m not a fan.)

chrome-batteries-plus

Chrome can do this because it “understands” the site search box on the destination site.

I noticed Chrome Destination Search works for some retailers (Crutchfield, Zales) but not others (Overstock, PetCo), and wondered why.

After some poking around, I think that using non-conventional HTML forms (eg using Javacript submits) in your site search confuses Chrome. I’m not 100% certain, but this held for the sites I checked. If Chrome can’t figure out your site search, Chrome doesn’t give your site the desirable Destination-Search presentation.

Now, Chrome has under 5% browser share, so who cares about any of this? Valid point. Four thoughts:

  • As much as possible, urge your web developers to favor “semantic” HTML. Simple well-formed HTML helps ‘bots better understand meaning from markup. Spiders typically ignore Javascript. If your forms aren’t constructed conventionally (that is, input fields with an input type=”submit” button), spiders won’t understand them. Semantic HTML helps not just Google, but the entire web.
  • If you need fancy Javascripty actions, go ahead and use them, but add them clientside using progressive enhancement. Few retailers use progressive enhancement. More should. The idea is simple: send simple lean standards-compliant pages, and add all the bells-and-whistles to the page after it loads before it renders. Your human visitors won’t even notice, and your site becomes much friendlier to ‘bots (and visually impaired humans, and mobile devices, too).
  • I’d wager that Google drives Chrome marketshare during 2009, perhaps reaching 15% by 2010.
  • If better markup leads to better presentation in Google Chrome, might not the same hold for Google natural search results too?

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
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