If you’re creating a user interface for searching, what’s your approach?
What happens after the results is presented? Can the user filter and refine the results to find exactly what they want? Are they forced to use an "advanced" mode? Or, scroll through pages upon pages of results hoping to find the right match?
If you’re interested in making a better search, read Pattern: Refining Search from Looks Good Works Well.
One of the most recent filtering searches I’ve used is from NewEgg. I was trying to find a new quiet graphics card to replace the hair drier model I’ve currently got installed. It’s clear that NewEgg is attempting to cater to many types of users. They have three different types of searches! The one with the most potential, but doesn’t necessarily follow all of the suggestions in the blog post linked above is the Guided Search. What I like about this search is that it provides feedback before I make a selection. For example, in the screen shot, I can see that there are 6 graphics cards that are priced between $10 – $25. If I click on that link, the list is updated with a new set of choices.
The Advanced Search takes the old school approach, one where you can almost imagine the SQL query that is constructed when the user hits the "Search" button. My simple complaint with this one is that my searches usually end up with no results as I have "over-specified" my requirements. I won’t know this until I hit the search button though. Worse, I don’t often know what to remove or simply in the search. It’s too hit and miss.
Finally, they offer a "Power Search." This search expands the drop-down list idea and allows the user to multiple select from each category. Again, until the search is completed, there’s no sense of whether a search will generate any results. Hardly a spectacular user experience.
Although not perfect, the Guided Search is the most discoverable and friendly search that NewEgg offers to the general consumer. It uses Ajax nicely to update the results. One major challenge with the Guided Search from a user perspective is that the list is constantly changing, which means that the user must reorient themselves after each click.
Do you have any favorite search and filtering experiences you’d care to share? Leave a comment.