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Our web application has a task-based secondary nav bar which, for the "Documents" primary nav item, offers...

Documents Find a document | Add a document

The "Find a document" item links to a page containing a search form that when submitted shows a list of documents.

It has been suggested that we change "Find a document" to "Search for a document". My argument against this is that the task the user is trying to accomplish is "finding a specific document that they have in mind". They may have to search in order to find it, but that's not actually what they're trying to get done - it's just a means to that end.

Does anyone have an opinion on this?


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"Find a document" saves a few characters...less screen noise! – Alex Feinman Jul 5 '11 at 16:57
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Although it's not precisely the same as what you're doing, librarians often face this kind of labeling problem. The general consensus that has developed is that "Find" is a better fit for the user's mental model of what they're doing than "search".

You may find these two pages by John Kupersmith at UCB helpful:

Again, this does not necessarily apply equally well to your domain -- it sounds like the tool you're labeling is for a known-item search in which the user knows for a fact the document exists because they put it there themselves, rather than an exploratory search for resources on a broad topic. So, take it with a grain of salt.

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Do you already have a main search field? - I was thinking you could just have the following with an inline search box...

Documents: Add new | [.........] Search

...but if you have a search box somewhere already then you don't want two to confuse the issue.

Maybe your search form is more complex, but nevertheless an inline search box is such a common thing everyone will know what to do with it, maybe it takes you to some results with advanced filter options if required.

You call it a search form yourself so stick with the terminology. If I go to amazon or any other site, whether I'm looking for a specific thing I have in mind or more broadly for items relating to my search term, I use the same thing and it's called a search box. Even someone like calls it a search box not a find box.

I don't see why the word document needs to repeated again along the line (add document, and find a document, or search for a document) - it's already at the beginning. Just use the words add or add new, and search

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I like Find a Document over Search for a Document because it more accurately represents the user's end goal.

Users don't really want to spend time searching, they want to find what they are looking for.

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