Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: ergophobe

Message Too Old, No Replies

On-Site Search Structure

What do users like the best?

11:41 pm on Mar 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Oct 10, 2003
votes: 0

Many times on-site search is an overlooked topic, but the trend of making better on-site search and bringing results that will convert more is growing.

Anyway, my question is divided in 2 parts.

1 - Do you know of any study or do you have an opinion about giving filtering options to user on the first search? or is it better just to have a search box?

By options on the search I mean there is a search box and a drop down box. An example would be that users can search products for GUYS or GIRLS already on the first search.

So, how do users respond to the layout with filter options on the first search, against doing a simple search, and then refine the results?

2 - Refine options: What do you think works best, having full listing of the options or using drop down menus?


full list of options would be like:

shirt (12)
shorts (35)
shoes (21)

awesome brand (7)
cool brand (12)
crazy brand (8)

Drop down boxes would have all this options in separate boxes, one for categories, another for brands, etc...

What do you think?

I think search is very important, and sharing our experience is good for everybody in this business.

I appreciate your input.


4:18 am on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member annej is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 17, 2002
votes: 0

Good info from Jakob Nielsen, the usability guru, on search


On drop down options, even people who know how to use them often don't bother. Think about how they can find the information in the one step if possible.

5:39 am on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Mar 21, 2006
votes: 0

Hi skuba,

What you are talking about is Faceted Classification. It is not new, librarians and data managers have been doing it for years. Faceted browsing is relatively new but offers an interesting way for people to find information.

here are some example sites.



[edited by: pageoneresults at 3:37 pm (utc) on Mar. 31, 2006]
[edit reason] Removed URI Reference - Please Refer to TOS [/edit]

6:39 pm on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Oct 10, 2003
votes: 0

Annej, very interesting article from JN. He is the usability guru, but I would take the article with a grain of salt since it's from 2001. Web browsing, web forms, and search have improved to be easier to use and more dynamic.

My main concerns here are:

1 - do users want to start the search with an option to choose gender right away? Or just he fact that there is a search box, and a drop down box is enough to make it look complicated?

2 - Once users land on the search results they find refinining and sorting options. DO you think they like better drop downs or full extensive lists?


9:46 pm on Mar 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member annej is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 17, 2002
votes: 0

I take Nielsen's info with a grain of salt too and you have to consider your visitors. Are they coming in determined to find a specific thing or are they just looking around? People will put up with jumping through more hoops if they are determined to find something.

The plus for drop downs and other advanced searches is that more users do know how to use them. But remember the net is getting new users all the time.

The negative is that it takes another step. There is a lot of truth Nielsen's article, "Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster" even tho it was written in 03. With a search engine just a click away people often move on if they don't find what they want quickly and easily.

I like how Amazon does it. You can search without using the drop down and you have a good chance of finding what you want. I suspect most people do just that . There are a few people who will use the drop down in the first place and others will use the drop down if the first effort doesn't get them what they want. But many will just try the general search and if it doesn't work they will move on. Most important is that you don't have to use the drop down to get some sort of results.

I did find this study. [eastonmass.net...] They chose drop down after their study.

Try searching this phrase: drop down navigation usability

10:47 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

10+ Year Member

joined:July 9, 2003
votes: 0

Dropdown boxes are poison.

We tested search functionality that had dropdowns to allow the users to select categories and brands. We felt that the dropdowns would help the users by showing them that the brand and category didn't have to be included in the search box.

Our tests (over millions of visits) have shown that including mandatory dropdowns vastly reduces the percentage of users that will conduct a search.

Including optional dropdowns still reduces the likelihood that users will conduct a search, but less so than the mandatory ones.

We felt that this reduction for optional dropdowns was because of an instant fear and dislike of dropdown boxes or the effort that was going to be involved in the search.

I will never use dropdowns again, no matter how much it would improve the actual functionality, because too few people will ever get to experience that improvement.