Annette Fowler

Multiple Search Boxes

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Recently a client asked us to research whether or not putting multiple search boxes on a page (one to search the entire site and one to search just a specific section) was advisable.  Here’s what we came up with…

Site examples

The following sites use two search boxes on the page to search different areas of the site:

Alternative Search Options

These sites offer the ability to search multiple areas of the site without using more than one search box.

3rd Party Recommendations

  • Don’t put two search boxes on a page, even if they search different areas of the site.  http://www.webtools.ca.gov/Usability/10_Tips.asp
  • Having two search boxes takes up precious screen real estate and increases the potential for confusion.  http://seltar.soup.io/since/52517668?mode=own
  • Sure, you can use all kinds of capabilities in your result list to provide additional content to your site searcher – faceted or parametric navigation, taxonomy browse tools, best bets. But do it with only a single search box. To paraphrase Steve Krug’s book title, don’t make your user have to think. Sure, structure results depending on content sources, formats, and other logical differentiators for your content – but only one search boxhttp://www.ideaeng.com/tabId/98/itemId/208/Search-Best-Practices-Only-One-Search-Box.aspx
  • The best designs offer a simple search box on the home page and play down advanced search and scoping…  A search box should be simple. According to usability studies, it is more user-friendly to have no advanced search options displayed by default. Advanced search, as the name suggests, is advanced, and users get confused trying to use it. One study shows that most users don’t know how to use advanced search or Boolean search query syntax.  Bottom line: if you design a search box, make sure it looks like one and is as simple to use as possible.   http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/12/04/designing-the-holy-search-box-examples-and-best-practices/

Summary

Though there does not appear to be an established “standard”, the use of more than one search box is considered confusing to the visitor and dated design by much of the web development community.  In summary, though it is technically possible, in most cases is not Beacon’s recommendation that a secondary “site specific” search box be implemented, based upon the above research and the limited number of “modern” sites that are using this practice.