I design a online shop for a client. The searchbar is for the target group and the stakeholder very important. So I did the search in the header, on top over the navigation bar (variant 1). My client says that they want to have the search IN the navigation bar.

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In my opinion, the search in the header is more focused on the users. So I want to use this option 1. However, I miss the right reasoning. Do you have arguments for one of these variants? I have unfortunately no experience reports, cases or studies found in the web.

Thanks for help.

FYI: Testing is no option at the moment.

4 Answers 4


Search is (or should be) a part of your Information Architecture. IA doesn't exist in a vacuum, but it's bound but the context and the available objects and modules (pages, sections, features and so on). IA has hierarchies and taxonomies that have to be clearly defined in order to provide a pleasant experience.

This being said, you can see that, a search on a header has a really high hierarchy, it's a visual reminder that yells "hey, I'm on top of everything!". This means users will be compelled to use it.

A search on a navigation bar will be part of the site structure. Users may not understand they can look for products, but that the search bar is to look for pages or sections, like in any other site. Furthermore: a search box inside a nav on mobile will probably disappear and users will need to interact with another element in order to find it. Assuming they know it's there!

Online shopping is search centric, and that's a given. But of course things are not as easy as I mention them. I'll give you an example: take a look to some really big online shopping sites:

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Do you see the pattern? Not only all of them have search as the predominant element, but navigation bars are really scarce, or limited to buying process, or simply disappearing. Think on Google, AirBnB, Trivago, Bing and other sites which are basically a search box (AirBnB added more elements now, but still has the search box as the focus). And the reason is easy: users want to search, then... why distract them with stuff that has no relation with what they want to do? If in doubt which approach works better... ask Yahoo.

In short

If search is this important for your stakeholders, then it has to be in the header. Millions have been spent in research for this pattern, so they can benchmark other successful sites and learn, no need to reinvent the wheel


Tell them users read/scan in an F-Pattern: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/f-shaped-pattern-reading-web-content/

The position you want to chose gets more attention, if you place the search bar in the navigation, the search bar will get less attention.

You could also tell them that amazon, ebay and every other online-shop that wants to make money is placing the search bar in the top center where it gets most attention after the logo.


The search bar should be as prominent as possible. Having it in the header to the right of other menu options can result in the search bar being 'lost' in all the other options.

Search is the most powerful tool when it comes to online shopping and should be displayed accordingly.

Also from a responsive point of view, having the search bar included in the header may result in it being far too squashed up on smaller devices (Due to the restriction of width) which again will reduce prominence.


I can understand wanting search in the menu. It's navigation, afterall. And they might want the header to show imagery which doesn't work nicely with overlayed content.

The key points here are the amount of navbar items, and the breadth of content on the site. They dictate how much room you have and how important search functionality is.

For example look at apple.com, microsoft.com and sony.com in contrast to aliexpress.com, amazon.com and ebay.com.

The first three have a relatively small line of products, one that's easily subdivided. So you have less need for the search functionality. You can predict where you buy an iPhone, PS4 and Office. Having less items also means there's plenty of space for the search bar.

But when you look at the other three, they have a very wide assortment including the kitchen sink. Literally. From which section do I buy a PS4? Video games? Electronics? Both apparently. It's hard to categorize the huge range they sell... so they kind of don't; product page URLs are non-hierarchical. But then how do you get to where you want? Using searches, tags, and putting tags in hierarchies to create structuere that's product independant.

There are also reasons not to prioritize search in general; one click is still faster than typing, and a search bar doesn't offer much in the way of exploration, so users are less likely to know (and thus buy/use) products of you they don't yet know of.

Have you asked them why they don't want search up there? And have you asked them why they do think it's very important. Perhaps they currently just don't have a good information hierarchy and use search as a crutch.

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