Search types illustration

Search types

It started as an attempt to add a bit of structure and ended up as an actionable tool. Used for ideation, it helped us to raise conversion with addressing the users hidden from our sight.

Published in UX Planet

When I’d just joined StarOfService as a product designer, I received a tiny task —  to prepare a marketing department research brief. We didn’t have much qualitative data then, but I had to start somewhere. Being a big fan of structures, I was looking at how to order the information. One of the things I began with was something I may call “proto Job Stories” —  the hypothetical ones. To add some context, StarOfService is a specialist marketplace. It matches specialists in different areas to the clients’ requests. Long story short, it helps the clients to search.

Diving into specific jobs, I discovered that they seemed to have much in common. And among the plenty of categories, one looked quite promising — categorisation by urgency. All the stories fit nicely into one of 3 quite actionable groups: Urgent, Determined and Occasional searches.

Urgent search

When we find ourselves in a situation of urgency, the attention is riveted on solving the problem —  it hurts severely, and we are looking for a fast and effective solution:

  • My tooth hurts hard, and I can’t ignore it, so I want to stop the pain as soon as possible.
  • I need to get from point A to point B as soon as possible, so I want to take the fastest option.

Determined search

In this case, it is all about finding the best solution. So we still have a problem to solve, but it does not hurt so hard at the moment. So we have time for a thoughtful investigation and comparison. But the decision is in some way inevitable, and we have to get things done in the most reasonable way:

  • My tooth gives me some discomfort, I can ignore it for now, but I should address it before it gets worse.
  • I have planned a holiday trip that includes several destinations, so I want to find the most efficient way to travel between those points.

If we fail to do it on time, or other circumstances start adding pressure, it may go to the Urgent category.

Occasional search

The origin of Occasional Search is not an existing problem but a curious one. We are not solving a problem —  we may not know about it yet, or it doesn’t hurt to any reasonable extent. So we are trying to get a bit more information about something. And if something we find is convincing enough, we may go on and try it:

  • I’ve heard that dental veneers are much cheaper today, so I want to learn more about them and possibly visit a clinic.
  • I’ve just heard about carsharing, so I want to learn more about it and, possibly, try to rent a car.

In this case, we try to provoke the client’s interest —  we are putting experience and expected results on display.

What to do with it

Though I haven’t held any dedicated tests or investigations about this concept yet, it has proven itself viable during the other interviews not related to it directly, and it appeared to be a useful instrument in practice. Having those perspectives helped us to examine our funnel and find the gaps we have.

As an exercise, I’ve prepared a workshop. The key part of it was the Value Proposition Canvases built for each of the search types. So while we were digging into the specific pains and gains, these divisions by urgency suggested different approaches. As a result, we have come up with a list of ideas on how to address the overlooked part of the visitors. Some of them were tested and appeared to be efficient and helped us to increase conversion.

Let’s see how it is applicable to a food delivery example and have a walkthrough of the various circumstances. The goal is to examine what we could expect from the delivery app in different search modes. (No VPC building, just some draft comments).


ex. I am starving, so I want to eat as soon as possible.

For sure, hunger is a powerful and urgent motivator and time is a crucial factor for decision-making. We also should inevitably take allergies or any intolerances into account. But still, the faster, the better. There are plenty of options: something not very palatable from the bottom shelf of the fridge, a nearby supermarket or café, food delivery and others. We would hardly consider waiting for ages in a posh restaurant kilometres away or cooking a fancy dish for ourselves.

So how can a food delivery app help us here:

  • Estimated time of arrival —  definitely, and you can add some reassurance like a coupon or even a full refund in case you fail to be on time;
  • Sorting by delivery time;
  • Repeat our previous order;
  • Remember our address or even food intolerances;
  • Provide an option for remote orders, so we can get to the restaurant while the meal is still being cooked and skip the delivery time.

In case of an Urgent Search, we may use a painkiller as a quick fix and postpone a proper treatment until later. What we are interested in —  is time, reliability and availability. If we address such requests, we should make sure our funnel is straightforward, all possible frictions are smoothed away, and we have provided all the possible shortcuts. Make sure you are convincing in your ability to provide quick relief and address the request appropriately.


ex.: I am planning a dinner with friends, so I want to have some food on the table.

Let’s assume we are reliably doing it beforehand and have some time to decide. The dinner should satisfy various requests. Since we are going to make a large order, we might take the price into account as well. We expect it to be ready to go by the exact hour, more or less. To address the request, a delivery app may provide:

  • Designated delivery time, so we can get it warm and don’t worry about the time;
  • Mention how you have successfully delivered 99% of orders on time, have 27 567 couriers in the area or started to deliver in 1928 when the first mass-produced TV set was launched;
  • Social sharing option, so we could decide together;
  • Advanced filtering —  taking into account tastes, allergies, working hours, etc.;
  • Dinner sets —  to take the decision-making burden from us;
  • Special offers —  buy-1-get-2, free beverages or extra something;
  • Some recommendations in a manner like “10 perfect dinners for a cosy evening with friends”;
  • Ratings and reviews, so we can be calm about the quality;
  • Save something to favourites, so that we could get back to it and compare the variants;
  • Allow splitting the price

Determined Search implies comparing options, digging deeper into the subject, and seeing reviews. Our users may not always start the search as domain experts, but over time they tend to learn more and get a better understanding. So we should demonstrate our value and professionalism to get noticed. We may provide outstanding quality or reasonable prices; superior ease of use or all encompassing customer support; fast and efficient solutions or breathtaking adventure. We should be convincing. Instead of just a declaration, we may tell the brand story, curate a blog with guides or instructions to show our expertise, and technical explanations of how it works.


ex.: Everyone uses those deliveries, so I want to learn more about them and possibly try to make an order.

In this scenario, you are not starving and do not have to care about the provision. You are just curious. So the primary request is to get a better understanding. And if the delivery app is capable of explaining its value it can win a new client. To achieve this it may not take us directly to the standard order flow —  it has to try to cut down our efforts and costs and to be clear about the value. There is a high chance that the first encounter will happen outside the app or the service website, or not with the “particular-food-delivery-app-we-are-talking-about-in-this-article” search request. So what could be done here:

  • The same “10 perfect dinners for a cosy evening with friends” posts;
  • Create a widget, that could be embedded by a restaurant;
  • Social profiles with enticing food photos;
  • High-quality photos in the menu —  you might make it a requirement for the kitchens;
  • You might provide some social proof —  display the ratings or number of orders;
  • Everyone provides the couriers with bright branding so that they are hard to be overseen and create the image of ubiquity;
  • Free delivery, some discount for the first order or a referral program;

The audience in this case is not yet convinced, so we should be clear and reasonable with the value proposition. That is what landing pages and social profiles are needed most. Special offers and first-order deals help to decrease the investments and efforts required to try. If in the Determined Search case we compare the food and restaurants, here we promote the delivery service itself.


There is nothing revolutionary here, the Search Types I’m talking about are still the case of Job Stories. But just a bit more generic — shortcuts, that are easy to keep in mind and are applicable in various cases. It helps me to save some time while working on something new and can be used as a product health check-up from time to time.