A common pattern in typeahead / autocomplete is to show the first suggestion as a hint in the search box itself.

What is its purpose from the UX perspective? typeahead google

the text "ssh client" in the search box, is what i am talking about

  • 1
    What happens if the user types Return at that point? Does it search on "javascript" or on "javascript ssh client"? It's confusing, so I'd say it's not a great experience. (If this is Google, it's populating the page as you type, so there's no need for Return and all is good.) Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 12:53
  • @KenMohnkern it is google, yes it is doing instant search, but the instant search is on "javascript" and not "javascript ssh client". why show "javascript ssh client" as a hint
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:04
  • Good question, but I think all answers you'll get will be wild guesses unless someone from Google comes along. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:11
  • but this behavior is part of other implementations as well... twitter typeahead also enables this hint
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:14
  • @KenMohnkern i guess you are right, i can see that it only shows hint for instant search
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:29

2 Answers 2


Edited Recently

From what i see from the image It's your recent query If you are searching Javascript SSH you actually do not get suggestion inside box. But if you are making the same query after a interval it shows this because it is your recent query.

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That would be most visited links after making a similar query like this by a user. Example: Facebook you search and first link is just facebook because it was clicked more from other users. then there is facebook logo and other options. Hope its clear !!

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If i'm not wrong you are asking about this

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If this is what you are asking then it's the way we designer help user about what they can really search in a product. or if there is a primary use case of search but that is not actually being searched this is one way to show user that this can be searched. Helping User


If you are talking about auto-suggestion:

  • Effective search should subtly guide users in creating and reformulating queries. Use as-you-type suggestions (auto-complete, auto-suggest, and instant results) to help users save time, iterate on their searches, and get the results they want.

    1. Auto-Complete

    2. Auto-Suggest

The purpose of auto-complete is to resolve a partial query, i.e., to search within a controlled vocabulary for items matching a given character string. The purpose of auto-suggest is to search a virtually unbounded list for related keywords and phrases, which may or may not match the precise query string.

  1. Instant Results

Use auto-complete to:

Facilitate accurate and efficient data entry Select from a finite list of names or symbols Use auto-suggest to:

Facilitate novel query reformulations Select from an open-ended list of terms or phrases Encourage exploratory search (with a degree of complexity and mental effort that is appropriate to the task). Where appropriate, complement search suggestions with recent searches

Read more

  • helpful info, but this isn't exactly what i intended to ask, updated the question with an image
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:11
  • that is most visited site for similar query ( simple )
    – Harshith
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:12
  • yeah, but why show it as a hint inside the search box ? it is already the first entry in the suggestions list
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:13
  • there are two types of user who searches for a query and selects from list and who types a query and press enter
    – Harshith
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:15
  • on google, this text is only hinted , not actually selected, so if you press enter you would be searching only on what you have typed and not on the hint
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:17

This feature is for training the user in the ideal structure of a query, and the hint serves the purpose of communicating (in a highly contextual way) "this is what you should type here".

It's this contextual aspect (i.e. that it appears directly ahead of the cursor, directly in the users field of attention) that differentiates it from the first suggestion in the list, despite them being the same thing.

In the blog post that associated the graduation of this feature from Google Labs to the main search product, Google said:

We find that by providing suggestions upfront, we can help people search more efficiently and conveniently

In the same blog post, the real UX value of the feature is spelled out in detail:

  • Helps formulate queries
  • Reduces spelling errors
  • Saves keystrokes

The hint facilitates these aspects by serving as a training tool as described in the first sentence of this answer.


  • nice blog post, would have been great to see some of the design or technical considerations explained
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:31
  • this blog post is more about the typeahead/autocomplete feature on a whole , nothing specific about the search box hint
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:32
  • These are almost the same thing. The hint facilitates the feature. It's an additional level of sophistication in the interaction design that saves clicks and brain cycles, not something that should be considered as separate from the autocomplete interaction.
    – dennislees
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:35
  • yes, it is part of the autocomplete feature, i am just trying to find out how does it help the user experience as the first suggestion is same as the hint and the hint is not completable by tab, why show that ?
    – gaurav5430
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 13:37
  • Well, that's not stated, so this is speculation, but this is essentially a training feature, and the difference between the (otherwise similar) hint and first suggestion, is the same as the difference between "this is something you can/should type here right now" and "this is just a suggestion". I've updated my answer.
    – dennislees
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:06

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