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I'm designing a website that its starting page contains a header with a navigation menu/sections, featured content and the main feature is a search box, as this is the recommended way to start browsing the site (like Google or http://www.iconfinder.com/).

In addition the site contains many other pages that should also contain a search box. One of them is the search result page but others are just simple content pages or forms. The most intuitive place for it is the upper right corner, as part of the header.

The problem is that if I will add the search box to the header, the starting page will have the big search box in the middle of the screen and also on the upper right side and it doesn't make sense.

The solutions I can think of (and I don't like any of them)- 1. Google/icon finder solved this by displaying the search box on the inner pages next to the header (see here: http://www.iconfinder.com/search/?q=hello). However this doesn't make sense on form pages, profile page etc.. and is probably a good pattern for search engines but not for content websites.

  1. Add the search box to the header in all pages but the starting page. This is very confusing I think.

  2. Have a large search box on the upper part of the screen in all pages (like http://www.amazon.com/). The problem with this is that I believe users know amazon and go strait to the search box. However, with the site I'm currently working on this is not the case and if I will not emphasize the search box on the landing page, people will not use it....

Any other ideas or links to other sites that approach this issue?

sketch

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What's confusing about option 1? I might not be visualizing it right, but I feel like having it be the main focus on the homepage and allowing it to be smaller in the header on other pages is fine, as long as the other pages are consistent. –  Bryan Robinson Oct 24 '12 at 13:36
    
If the first page wouldn't have a header at all it would make sense. But I think adding a search box to an existing header is not distinguish enough and the user might not understand why in some cases (most of the pages) there is a search at the top, but in others (probably every time he enters the site and see the main page) there is not... I couldn't find any existing site with this behavior. –  Noa Oct 24 '12 at 13:46

3 Answers 3

What you can do is to have the search field in your header on all pages but the search result page. That way users can always reach search easily from any page – and when they have searched, they get a bigger search input field if they want to improve their first search.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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I agree that option 1 wouldn't be as confusing as you think. Most people won't really notice the incongruencey of having a search box on the starting page vs. the other pages, because their visual focus is preoccupied with the larger search box itself anyway. And if they do notice, I don't think it's enough to cause massive confusion.

An alternative to this would be to have a search box in the header on the starting page, but to make it discreet, like: http://bestwebgallery.com/. When you click the magnifying glass icon (beneath the logo), the search box slides outwards and can be closed.

This could be a unique way of having the search box exist without having it be too visually obvious.

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I personally think either option would work just fine, but I can see how there could be confusion.

My suggestion, do some lo-fidelity tests on it.

Barring that, I think perhaps doing a combined version of them would be nice too (which I think Google does). Start with it as your prominent feature on your homepage, then move it up amazon-style on the interior pages. It's can still be prominent, but is no longer the main feature.

I also feel like it would be an awesome time to do A/B testing :D

All this is dependent on other pieces of functionality on your site and what the goal of each page is. I'd say focus on the page's goal and just make sure secondary goals are out of the way, but accessible.

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