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I wanted to get some ideas on how a problem like this might be avoided. A mobile app (android, ios) that I work on uses a local sqllite DB to power an auto-suggest feature on the search screen. The idea is that since it's local (contains the most popular items in our database), it returns very fast and the user either sees the item they seek on the list, or press the search button, which invokes an API call to our server.

Now the problem is that I get feedback from users all the time saying that the app doesn't have the same results as the search on the website. Of course this isn't the case because both the site and the app use the same search API. I suspect that the users get confused and think that the auto-suggest is the entire search result and never actually press the search button.

So the question is this, what techniques can we use to hint to the user that pressing the actual search button will give them more results? I'm toying with the idea of adding an entry at the bottom of the auto-suggest box that says, "More ...", which will just trigger the search function.

Any thoughts would be appreciated :-) Thanks!

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migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com Oct 18 '11 at 20:08

This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

    
Are you sure users are getting the same results whether they hit the local db or the server? Are the two datasources always in sync? Have you tested it? –  Patrick McElhaney Oct 18 '11 at 22:15
    
Yes I've tested it. What I meant is that, the local database contains a subset of only the most popular items from the database on our server. So when the start typing, they see items sourced from that local DB (which will naturally be missing some items from the server). Once they press the actual search button, it kicks off an API call, which provides the exact same results for the same query string as one would receive on the website. –  Joel Martinez Oct 19 '11 at 0:11
    
Okay, it sounds like you're talking about autosuggest (search results) rather than autocomplete (keywords, as in the screenshot in Ben's answer). Is that right? –  Patrick McElhaney Oct 19 '11 at 0:33
    
Yes, that's a good point ... I will update the question to reflect that –  Joel Martinez Oct 19 '11 at 1:18
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Can you post a screenshot. We might be able to offer some quick interface improvements. –  Emil Oct 19 '11 at 5:22

2 Answers 2

If you are simply showing the autocomplete suggestions below the search box, it is likely that some people may confuse them for the search results which appear in very much the same place.

To make this clearer, you could add a line that says "popular search terms" or "suggested terms" above the suggested search terms.

This will reduce the number of people confusing it, but will also make your interface busier. You need to decide if this tradeoff is worth it, and the best way to do that is to test it out with some of your customers.

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+1 Nice, easy suggestion. Also for hallway usability testing. –  P.Brian.Mackey Oct 18 '11 at 20:33

Google Instant has tackled a similar issue with some simple microcopy: enter image description here

Google instant is usually instant but on occasions the user will have to press enter to search, like to avoid auto-completing swear words. Make it clear that you're completing their words and that the button actually gives the results.

Make sure it's clear that your auto complete suggestions don't appear to be "results", which might be the case if you're using the "results" area of the screen to show the autocomplete items. Make it apparent that the dropdown you're using for autocomplete is tied to the field, like Google does here: enter image description here

The results are clearly distinct from the autocomplete suggestions.

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