I have seen many websites using category list in the search box. It's really useless for me to choose the category and then to search the keyword. Is this search type really user-friendly?

Google Drive: Search Drive -- a select list with the label "Type" shows the value "Any"

Amazon: the select list next to the search field shows the value "Jewellery"

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    Why do you think it isn't? – JonW Oct 4 '16 at 10:27
  • Even On google search page, the categories list (All, Images, Videos, News, More…) is shown after the search result. – Pradeep Oct 4 '16 at 10:36
  • Huh. I didn't realize the British spelling for "jewelry" was different. – Ken Mohnkern Oct 4 '16 at 12:43
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    Congratulations—this is post 100,000 on User Experience! – bwDraco Oct 4 '16 at 22:44
  • You dont need to select categories explicitly to get data. Amazon's default category is "All" and your search query"books" will be matched will all the categories available. That means category is just to filter data. When user makes explicit choice "jwellery" , it returns books with the error message because it doesnt match with filter "jwellery" provided. – UXbychoice Oct 5 '16 at 5:21

I agree with you. I haven't done or seen any usability tests, but I always advise against expecting users to pre-select anything in a search. Providing just a search box, then letting users filter the results seems a better solution.

For one thing, you're asking the user to switch to the mouse and click a couple times to pick a category. Then there's the chance that they've selected badly and the results won't include what they're looking for. For another, I'd rather see too many search results than too few. It's better to scroll through a list and find what you're looking for than to have that thing filtered out prematurely.

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    But they have an "all" option. That's actually the default. – Majo0od Oct 4 '16 at 17:19
  • Yes, and that's the correct default since I expect few people ever select anything else. – Ken Mohnkern Oct 4 '16 at 18:14
  • To your point however, I wonder why they decided to show any of the options especially because they can send an "all" query... Hmmm... – Majo0od Oct 4 '16 at 18:16
  • That's puzzling to me too. I assume Amazon is always running user tests on their site. So there must be enough users that use the search's category drop-down to justify keeping it. – Ken Mohnkern Oct 4 '16 at 18:32
  • @Majo0od, probably they want to optimise search query. – UXbychoice Oct 5 '16 at 5:26

Not sure what you mean by user-friendly but this feature is in no way a burden to the user. Using it is completely optional in both examples you have given as they have to be explicitly activated by the user.

These features are similar to Google's Advanced Search and they are meant to give additional power to users who want to obtain very specific search results. A feature doesn't fail to be user-friendly because it isn't found to be useful or isn't used.

I've used Amazon's categories before especially when I'm exploring their catalogue of products. I actually prefer Amazon's implementation to Drive's because having the filters available on the search results page means that users can narrow their results both before and after their search.

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  • The only time I would consider it user friendly for failing to be used is of the user is not recognizing made aware that it exists, but it seems very apparent in this case. – iyrin Mar 30 '17 at 4:12

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