What would be the best approach to deal with a scenario where you can do different types of search - primarily for a tablet app, but the ideal solution would be applicable to desktop and mobile too.

So you tap 'search' and you have the options to search 'people', 'cars', 'areas' etc.

Due to business reasons (and the fact you couldn't search a 'name' and get a 'car' result) - these searches cannot be combined.

Option 1: Would it be to tap 'search' and be taken to a page with the different areas across the top (with the first one ready to go).


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Option 2: Would it be better to make the user select the area, then take them to the search with a back button.


download bmml source


download bmml source

Option 3: Something else - if any one can suggest an established pattern, or examples of this in the wild that would be great.

  • Do you actually have to separate the search into different categories? Why not just show what category the yielded search result was in?
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 11:59
  • @Majo0od - There will be no concept of a free text search (for business reasons, out of my control), and each search category is significantly different in terms of the fields related to it. Within the environment this will be used in, the user will want to search specifically by category, as they will only ever be looking into one category at a time.
    – Jon Kyte
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 9:36
  • That's fair enough.
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 14:10

5 Answers 5


What about using a selector for search, such as the one in the image?

search selector

If the user wants to make a search on something else, you can add this field every time that they make a new search.

  • Hmm, interesting approach - my problem is my search is finding records, and so it's not just one search field (free text) it's fields. So for person, it would be: First name, Surname, DOB, Sex for example - these would then obviously be different for cars. However, in a vertical layout - your suggestion could still work and I would have to simply switch out the fields when the user selects a 'search on'. Thank you for the input.
    – Jon Kyte
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 10:44
  • @JonKyte Is there any particular reason why they all need to be search boxes? Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 10:52
  • Unfortunately, yes - the fields are predetermined as they search third party systems.
    – Jon Kyte
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 11:03
  • @JonKyte I am surprised that you need to search for example for your sex, since there are limited options. Can't you ask your developers for a solution that doesn't require search. Search can be really tricky, for example, some people might search female and some other woman. Not finding the correct option, your users might get frustrated. Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 11:10
  • I agree, unfortunately, it's not a developer constraint, it's a constraint of policy, old systems etc. However, I have adapted this idea to a vertical layout and added in some of the complexities I left out of my initial question that are present in my specific use case and it seems like a good solution, so will mark as correct. Thank you.
    – Jon Kyte
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 12:49

For a search form multiple options I usually do the following;

Person name [       ]  Car name [       ]     Sex [M][∆]
       Dept [       ] From date [       ] to date [       ]  

I put all search criteria in one screen and let the user attempt the combinations. Some combinations are possible, some are not. For some there is performance issues then I require more restricted date range. The user will discover this limitations by trial and error. Of course there is instructions, but they are simple not used. Since the system gives informative feedback is easier to the user try before read the instructions.

I work in a very big company and I have two types of users. Those that work directly in my systems and are specialized on it. Those that rarely need my system and are not trained to use it. This pattern works well for both.


I'm solving the similar kind of use case and the best thing what you could do is to showing suggestions according to the types/categories which narrow down users search result.

For reference please check AWS search panel. This might help you.

If you need more clarification on working model then please let me know or check AWS search.


I am dealing with a similar issue. I have multiple criteria's for one search item, and I have a similar pattern to follow for another search item within the same page. I am finding it challenging to make it user friendly by reducing the number of clicks., but at the same time, show all the search results, and take them away once the desired result is chosen.


I recently came across something similar where there are multiple inputs - one for name, one for email, and one for a phone number. I pretty much used the accepted answer for my use case.

In the example below, the user has already selected a Name, Email and Phone Number.

enter image description here

Selected items appear as pills (chips) underneath. If the user wants to change the name, they can do by selecting the Name from the drop-down and enter a new value. This will replace Scott Stacey.

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