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Honestly, all my clients mention or have the search icon in their navigation. They insist on having a search icon. Some website is a obvious No (like a landing page) and some Yes because of the wide spread of data.

The medium sized websites are where I contemplate the most. Yes, it's nice to have a search JUST IN CASE. But by having too much icons or tabs, the website will increase the users memory load (I have a principle or rule to that I follow to always reduce user memory load). I believe a well designed hierarchy can dismiss the use of search icons.

Or do you disagree. Even WITH a good hierarchy (like well structured content), you should still have search.

Do we have any user research or case studies about this?

marked as duplicate by locationunknown, Shreyas Tripathy, Matt Obee, Charles Wesley, Daniel Beck Oct 31 '17 at 19:09

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Imo placement and context is the key. If search box is placed on it’s conventional position or it is within the context, you don’t need icon to signify. Most of the websites have it on top right/left position so i would keep it there or just in the line of navigation (h/v) so that it conveys the context for the scenario where users are not able to find what they are looking for in navigation, they can hit search.

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I had similar question long back, read few blogs and understood, It is ideal to keep search box, for few reasons which i recall quickly:

  • A new user or a user who is in a hurry tend to hit the search button to get results.
  • World's famous Shopping portals try to make their navigation as simple as possible and try to make it better every day also they invest/test so much to understand how users navigate, yet users click, on search box, If we could get the analytics data of how many users are using their portal in a day and what percentage of users click on search box - we can understand the importance of it and decide whether to have it or remove it (If possible speak with your analytics team to get this data for your portal), Personally i feel it is definitely required for a shopping portal/large portals, say if a person is looking for a odd product, he may not know under which category the product will fall under
  • If your clients are okay to give a try real time/beta test, For example create a A/B testing (with and without search box), with the result you can take the call
  • While i took the training on usability, it is said, users should be able to find the results without search box (As mentioned by you - Well designed hierarchy), i agreed, but in real time, its unavoidable - especially when you have large database.
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Keep in mind that a user can type anything in a searchbox

If the site doesn't have much content the chances of the searchpage returning 0 results can be very high.

A useless search function is worse than not having one. If you don't find the thing you're looking for after 2 searches you probably leave.

Instead good navigation and information architecture will allow visitors to quickly find what they are looking for without the need for a searchbox.

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