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Has there been any research on the relative usability of having multiple boxes for a search?

I do not mean having three different types of search each with their own search box. Rather having the same search, with two boxes.

e.g. a quick sketch of my thinking. Assuming a website for finding a sports club:

example of issue

The first one has the definite advantage of allowing a more refined search; you don't care about the existence of basketball clubs anywhere in the country, you want one specifically close to you (we have to hope this search will be smart enough to search by proximity rather than exact location matches).

The second carries the advantage of simplicity. Maybe you do just want to do sport in your town and aren't interested in what it is.

Any research relevant to this?

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Giving a user 2 search bars is making them think more than they'd prefer to.

In this case, one search bar can do exactly the same as two. A user can fill in 'Amsterdam' and it will show everything in the Amsterdam area. Or a user can fill in 'Basketball' and it will show all basketball clubs in the country. After this if the user needs more specific results, they can use filters to specify things.

A user could also fll in 'Basketball Amsterdam' and it should show all basketball clubs in the area.

You're not giving us much information about your target group or website, which leads me to think you might need to put more time into user research and the user journey. I would recommend looking back at this to determine what your user really needs.

In my experience however, it's very rare a user needs two search bars.

  • I have no website, its just a theoretical that has came to mind about best practice. I'm thinking of a general search where the location is highly important, e.g. my sports example, or jobs, classes, dating... whatever. – the other one May 30 '17 at 13:35
  • That's why I mentioned it's very specific to the concept... There is no general best practice to this. I would use a dropdown + searchbar rather than 2 search bars. – Summer May 30 '17 at 13:44
  • if we are designing the best search possible then I like linked in's example of layered togglable filters (UK>England>SE>London...) but...yeah. Thinking purely of the search boxes here. – the other one May 30 '17 at 13:54
  • @theotherone you are not getting my point. There's no one solution that works for everything. 'The best search possible' is going to be totally different per concept. – Summer May 31 '17 at 7:31
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Instead of having two search bar. You can use this option. By default option will be set to all. The user can filter out option from drop-down provided beside search bar. Let me know if you have any doubts.

enter image description here

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I am not sure about research, but if you look at the fact that all major search engines have implemented quite sophisticated search algorithms that can accommodate complex search input and match keyword combinations to return pretty accurate search results, it suggests that having multiple search boxes is unnecessary.

This is both in terms of usability (that they should only have to provide input once and in one place) and user expectations (that the interface will accept and return results accordingly).

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In my opinion the second carries the advantage of simplicity only IF I can search by sport AND by location with the same input text.

Else, a mix of both seems be a good way too, I explain:

  1. in a first instance the user fill the single input text (sport or location)
  2. when the search results is display, the search form become with two input text

If you have a list of sports or a list of locations, you can match the word typed by user and fill the second form input text with it.

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