Do you like how Google fixes your typos, understands you, and shows interesting information? Let’s talk about the language aspects of a smart search. What linguistic features you need in your store smart search?

Spellchecking and Error tolerance

Yes, we do typos, especially on a mobile phone, or making small spelling errors in typing. But what can be more annoying than search which neither fixes them nor suggests the right things? (spoiler – in some languages there’s one even more annoying thing and we’ll cover it later). Argh! It’s really nasty – you have to type all these little letters on your phone with your fingers. No, that can’t be right – a smart search needs to understand us and handle this. Plus, on the other hand – the store itself might have typos in its texts and we want to find all the products well anyway.

Shop-specific dictionaries

Spell-check is a useful feature, but it also needs to properly handle words that are specific for your store.  Your website should look professional and suggest only meaningful typos for your visitors.

Natural language

We’re not machines search for “High Back Orthopedic Wing Back Leather Chesterfield Type Armchair” and would like to search “comfortable armchair for a balcony”. And a smart search should understand this. It should find the right armchairs by going through the product descriptions and identifying which of them are comfortable and which ones would suit a balcony.

Inflections

In some languages, words may change significantly in its suffixes, prefixes, being adjusted by different grammatical categories like a tense, case, gender, aspect. A real smart search would have to be able to distinguish these aspects both in the website content and user queries. Specifically for this, Kea Labs Smart Search is using various techniques, such as algorithmic stemming or dictionary-based text processing. We tune them for each specific language which allows us to make the search less dependant on word formations.

Compound words

In many European languages like German, Dutch, Norwegian, and Finnish, several words are added up together into longer words. This can be incredibly difficult for the search engine, as it has to not only understand each part of the long word but also find the long word when visitors search for its parts.

Diaeresis/diacritic symbols

When I said nothing can be more annoying than search which can’t handle typos, I was wrong. The most obnoxious is the search which requires exact matching of symbols like ä, č, or õ (also known as diaeresis). If you were ever trying to find a flight to, let’s say, Tromsø and couldn’t see any options, then yes – you may now feel exactly what it’s like and how thoughtful some searches are for people who don’t have even such letters on their keyboards. For many European languages, this feature is especially important.

Different keyboard layouts

Another tricky part is various keyboard layouts. In some countries, like Germany or the Czech Republic, letters Z and Y are switched. And visitor shouldn’t care on which layout he’s typing – if it’s and classical with Z in the left-bottom corner, or a German with Y in that place? And what about Cyrillic layouts, like Russian? Search should be proactive and try to search on inverse layout if it didn’t get good enough results on the original query.

Synonyms

Search will be more efficient if it understands synonyms. Ideally, it should handle not only standard dictionaries for a language, but also it should handle custom synonyms. In Kea Labs search or may configure synonyms and abbreviations specific for your store domain.

Due to the efforts of Google and other search companies, people’s expectations of search have grown significantly. Search in your store should match them and understand even complex queries of your visitors. This is essential, especially for complicated languages. The linguistic module of Kea Labs Search was designed for advanced linguistic processing and allows to find desired items even for complicated and irregular terms.

Find out more about how you can improve your smart search in our blog.