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I'm designing a search control to enable users to search among a variety of food products. Now I'm a bit confused to how I should shape the behavior, if a search always should result in a result list or sometimes in the actual details page of a product. There are some complications here, the user can definitely search for patterns that totally correspond with a product name (eg. "Sea bass"), but there may be other products which have very similar names (eg. "Dried Sea bass").

I tried looking at for example Wikipedia, but that didn't make me much saner. Searching for example for "Elvis" on Wikipedia will end the user up at the detail page for "Elvis Presley" even though there probably are loads of other articles with the term "Elvis" in them.

(The service will not feature search auto suggestion).

Can someone give me some insight regarding best practices here that I should try and comply to?

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@Chris as far as I know it's because the framework doesn't support it, and that adding it would be too expensive. I do definitely agree though that auto suggestion would be preferable. –  AndroidHustle Aug 22 at 7:22

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

A search should ALWAYS end up in a search result page no matter if it's a structured results or actionable results. This is standard behavior on all available search engines whether it’s online or in an application.

However, you have the possibility to display the search results in different ways, as in this example of Actionable Results Illustrated.

enter image description here

More to read: Search Patterns

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So basically, you "show the actual result in the result list", the list is a list of results rather than a list with links/titles of results? –  AndroidHustle Aug 21 at 10:20
    
@AndroidHustle Boths works, but standard is a title/link with some kind of abstract below. But you could use linked images with titles if you like. –  Benny Skogberg Aug 21 at 10:23
1  
Yea, that's basically what I have now, a grid of items with an abstract (short introduction) of each result. My main question was whether it would be a good idea to in some instances lead a search action directly to the page for an item (like Wikipedia). But I agree that this causes inconsistency and confusion and should be used sparsely. Thanks! –  AndroidHustle Aug 21 at 10:43

Wikipedia automatically redirects you to the most relevant search result. That's a behaviour that can be quite confusing for people that don't search for this result.

My suggestion is:

  • Always display a search result and avoid redirects to what you think the user searched for - you can never be sure, even with exact matches (as your example with Sea bass shows)
  • Put emphasis on the most relevant result (if you can figure it out) by e.g. making it bigger, adding an image and/or more additional information such a description
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A good example of this approach is the Wikipedia results that now appear on the right side of many Google SERPs for exact matches of famous people and places. –  3nafish Aug 21 at 17:04

Search should always take you to a result page (like @msparer said, wikipedia is confusing for most users)

However, many modern UIs have an omnibox which can, depending on the input, behave more like a command line that search. In such a situation navigating directly to the result would be good UX IMO

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Note that wikipedia behaves differently depending on how you search: a search from the search box or firefox's built-in toolbar will go straight to an exact* match, while a search from the search page will always return a list. This may or may not be intuitive, but it probably minimises page loads overall. (*exact except case and space/underscore in my quick test) –  Chris H Aug 21 at 11:16
    
-1 The first paragraph is a comment. The second paragraph goes directly against the OP's limitation that The service will not feature search auto suggestion. –  3nafish Aug 21 at 17:00

I should think context matters a great deal.

I agree that bringing a user directly to a result can be disconcerting, which is what happens to me when I use Google map search on my android device. If I search for a Fedex, it will take me directly to the nearest fedex. I will then have to poke around to figure out where the actual result list is, so I can find alternative Fedex locations.

On a recent vacation, when this happened to us, my vacation partner was upset by the user experience. As was I, initially. But when I thought about the screen real estate limitations and the use cases, I can see why Google made this choice.

Which suggests to me that, while a best practice is to provide the list of results, it might not always be the best user experience given the context. For instance, is this app for people using a mobile app, standing in a walk-in cooler and placing orders for a restaurant kitchen? Maybe it's better to bring them directly to a detail page, with the option to view the full list of results (ordered sensibly/smartly) rather than the standard practice of providing the lists of all results, with the option to drill down to a detail page.

Are you working with people who don't know the domain? In other words, will there be a lot of discovery involved? If they don't know chilean sea bass from black sea bass, but need to explore sea bass and then drill down, maybe better to direct them to a "root" page result where they can explore the spoke. (drawing here on the hub and spoke model for app design).

All in all, I go with 1. the standard: full results list, let user chooose the detail page if you are short on research time and funds. 2. if you can convince people to give you a research budget, study users doing the task in context for a better answer.

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