The search button is dead. You shouldn’t even have one.
You need a search box – but you don’t need a button for someone to click on. This might seem like a inconsequential UI change, but it’s an important mindset to integrate into your site design. It’s called query completion – giving users an indication of what results they’ll see, or steer them to use query suggestions before they hit return. By thinking of a search box as a central piece of navigation within your site, it helps users find what they’re looking for more quickly. Rather than having a hierarchical menu of options, let users tell you what they’re looking for and put the appropriate results into categories. I’ve seen this a lot recently – and I am starting to expect it from every site I visit. I’ve highlighted some of the sites that I think are doing a great job:
I don’t need to review greplin, as I think it’s a great idea. Here’s a solid write-up of greplin if you haven’t heard of it already. As you can see in the screenshot, they don’t even have a search button.
Another site doing a great job with this paradigm is plancast. While greplin is a search engine and it makes sense that search is very important in their interface, this next example shows how search can be central to any site. Plancast is a site that allows you to subscribe to the calendar of someone else. For example, you could follow a famous designer and go to the same conferences they attend in the hopes of meeting them and speaking with them. Here’s a journalist’s take on plancast, and I’ve taken a screenshot of a query for brad feld. In the screenshot, it lists the plans for Brad Feld, as well as techstars information and a meeting he is attending. An example of excellent execution:
The final example is from LinkedIn. I typed in bro, and they gave me suggested items for a lot of different categories. They clearly get it as well. I did a search for bro, and it showed me Peter Bromka, one of my close friends and LinkedIn connections.
Even after you do a search, when you click/unclick certain check boxes you don’t have to hit a ‘submit’ button to make the search effective. They automatically do the search for you again (with visual feedback the query is being executed).
People think that search is just showing a bunch of links to other pages on their site, while these three examples show how it’s more than that. How you seen examples of other sites using search effectively? I’d like to keep a list of sites that get it (other than, you know, the big elephant in the room).