How Do We Know That? (#1: The Search Box)

, Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

It’s easy to take web conventions for granted, like the fact that the logo links to the homepage, and is featured at the top left. Often, when we put our recommendations together, we put some basic information in about what should be where. Because our suggestions often reflect well-worn conventions, our clients accept them.

But once in a while, a client will ask the unthinkable: “How do you know that is the right thing to do?”

When this happens, you need to be ready to explain yourself, or you look like you are Just Making Stuff Up. Recently, one of our clients asked us about the search box – “Where should the search really be placed?”

In addition to our experience doing user testing (where we get to see people responding to various designs in real time), we look to studies like this one from SURL, and then look to build on our knowledge through documented experience where possible.

The SURL study shows the areas that the user looked to find internal search on a site, both for new and experienced users (the darker the area, the more likely a user looked in that area of the page).

Additionally, we can find case studies like this one (pdf), which walks through one site’s search change and the results. It shouldn’t be surprising that their efforts, moving the search box to one of the key locations identified in the SURL study, produced results.

So there you have it, for the search box anyway. Next up… well, what do you want to know about?

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