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Is it recommended to add the number of items found on a search results?
In my opinion it is a useful information that gives a quick idea on what you are going to read.
Could it be omitted?

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10 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The Scent of Search by Tyler Tate includes the following recommendation:

Indicate the number of results. This helps users gage the validity of their search. Numerous results can act as a vote of confidence, while few results may raise a red flag.

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Search results should always:

  • provide the total number of results found
  • indicate whether the results are ranked in order of relevance (users will often assume that results begin with the most relevant
  • give clear clues to the user where they are in the results via pagination or a similar mechanism
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Search results should show the number of items found.

As a general rule, the data of complex type (such as a set of database records) should be accompanied by its summary because reading the whole data requires a lot of effort. While it is difficult to produce a spot-on summary automatically, the number of items is usually easy to generate and pretty useful. It is usually not sufficient as a summary by itself, but it is better than no summary.

If the search is fuzzy, you may only have the number of “best matches”, the number of “good matches”, the number of “possible matches” and so on, and there may not be a single “number of items matched”. Even in this case, you should show some meaningful number(s) whenever possible.

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good points, thanks –  systempuntoout Nov 7 '10 at 22:50
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If it's cheaply available, of course you should show it. I've built systems however (not based on SQL) where the search results were produced at a rate of about 10-20 per second, and you might get 1000 results. Naturally we didn't wait a minute to show the first result; we showed the first page when it was available.

Now, what should you do with the number of search results? In this case, it made more sense to show pages being added as results came in.

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Not only should you include the number of matches, but also include the exact search phrase/criteria that was used, e.g. Your seach for "foo" returned 0 matches..

It is really annoying when you search for something and get no matches, then try with a different search phrase and you have no idea of whether the zero matches result page is a result of your last search or your second last search without rigorously watching the browser to try to detect the expected page reload triggered by your last search.

This is of course less of a problem when there are some matches found, but still always acknowledge the user by in some way saying I searched for .... for you and found .... results.

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Yes! If there are too many results, rounding the total is a good idea in my opinion.

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There should be a number but you can do it like Google: display three significant digits, for example:

  • 7
  • 532
  • 7'320
  • 312'000'000
  • 1'180'000'000
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nobody does not check how many records really found, yes? :) –  igor Nov 10 '10 at 8:47
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It depends on the size of the index being searched. For example, a blog with an index of 100 posts might not need a result count - why clutter the UI if a typical search brings back 3 results, all of which are above the fold? If you are searching a larger index with a wide average range of results returned then you may want to consider adding a result count.

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Sometimes. In a system with a good relevancy ranking, the number of results may not have much meaning.

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Why not? That's one number, it can't create much visual noise, even when not useful. Even as decoration it's acceptable.

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