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When no search results are returned, it's often useful to provide users with a productive next instead of a dead end in their journey. It's all very context driven, but here's a few of mine...

  • If filtering (e.g. through a faceted search), have a link to clear filters
  • Recommend spelling alternatives
  • Add personality. What if no results are a good thing (e.g. no things for the user to do, so tell them to grab a beer or something!)
  • If there's no results because they haven't done something yet (e.g. entered their product information into the system), explain what they should do.

What about others? Would be great if you could share on visual examples as well :)

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3 Answers 3

Pre-offer results as much as possible

  • If you can correct spelling: pre-offer the results of the correction along with the correction
  • If the user has too many filters: pre-offer unfiltered results and offer to turn filters off
  • If the system can find results for fewer terms, offer the those fewer terms
  • If the system can find results for words that are synonyms, or contextually related terms, pre-offer those results and suggest the change
  • You can also look at that users search history and offer recent past searches or use those searches to help determine what they might be looking for.

Thats all I got! Hope it helps.

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For faceted search, the best practice I can recommend is to not allow the user to create a condition that will end in no results.

When the user makes a selection, disable elements that do not have results tied to them. Any further user selection should further narrow the current already filtered result set.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

For misspellings where you have a suggested spelling, return the results for the suggested spelling and indicate to the user that their query did not return any results (like Google does).

enter image description here

For TRUE no result pages, your examples are pretty good. However you should do as much as you can upstream to try to make that page never appear in the first place (not always possible!).

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2  
Love the greying out of zero result options! +1 –  Fresheyeball Dec 13 '12 at 19:02

I would just like to answer on one aspect of your question particularly.

If you are adding personality, make sure you don't get lost in something localized. What I mean is, you are adding flavor by the whole personality thing, by say adding a line - "Let's grab a beer, some fries and watch some football."

That line might be something that would be pro-region. That would definitely not fetch you personality points where I come from.

When my chrome tab crashes, it says "He's dead Jim" by quoting Leonard McCoy. Most people I know don't even know where the quote comes from and who Leonard McCoy is! They just like that instead of a ERROR it shows a sad smiley.

Sad smiley is something universal - try adding personality with something that won't get localized like the he's dead jim or grab a beer or something that might not relate with the whole of your audience.

This is only very vaguely related to your question, but I should point this out since we are talking of personalities.

In this question, What are the best practices on religious holidays?, people have constantly suggested that it might offend certain users if you touch on the wrong greeting method for saying happy holidays!!

Similarly, if you are adding personality by adding say halloween related stuff, it might not go well with people on the other side of the world who are not aware of what halloween stands for!

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