I'm looking for ways to better expose the search functionality, which in my case plays a big usage role. I've been conducting talks with users, and have managed to identify that it's functionality was frequently missed, but when they were told about it, were really excited about it.
Because the search is possible by 3 different categories, it has a drop-down auto-suggest to chose from, which is also frequently ignored.
Things I've thought of:
- Opening the autocomplete upon click in search box and displaying either explanations or popular examples or relevant searches to current page/user. The goal is to get the users' attention to the autocomplete box, so he'll try to use it when he types. Currently it opens after 3 letters. This should hopefully make him more aware of the different categories and options to search by.
Making the search box stand out visually: not all sites include search usage as a main flow, so I think this is a popular reason to ignore it. I've noticed fb have made a big effort to make the search box and it's autocomplete very noticeable, and am thinking to do the same.
Tour: opening a pop-up box with explanations and guiding the user through the process. I've noticed Google Maps have done this in their new release.
Search box in header with options to search by.
"On Click" showing 'try X' and auto-suggest displaying trending options.
After typing letters, directing auto-suggest to current query completions
Are there any other options, or do you have insights on the things I've thought about and how to help users better identify the functionality and how it can help them?