Many sites, even big ones, seems to follow the practice of hiding search field under the button and then showing a full-screen form on click.

enter image description here Click to see the form

enter image description here No search button though

What bothers me is how many users do actually know that form can be submitted with Enter key (because these sites don't provide other clues or buttons on how to submit the form)?

So either they are sure users will know to submit form with the enter or just follow the trend without thinking about it?

  • I started writing an answer and then realised I was going off on a tangent, critiquing the Lonely Planet site. In terms of trends in ubiquitous software you can look at how this problem is addressed by web browsers and the built in search bars of operating systems. It seems many of them don't have a search button but results and actions auto-populate, you click on what you want rather than going to a results page. Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 5:30
  • @WesToleman nice point about OS and browsers! Though I would argue that native desktop software by default is much faster than web one (e.g. on web search you need to make an AJAX request and so on) so it may be not that useful if you have really large or unoptimized database.
    – Runnick
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 10:57
  • It would be good UI to have a default placeholder, that remains the selection until suggestions are available. Something like search for <currently entered query>. As an aside, populating results as they are generated is an interesting problem, there's determining what to highlight and not blocking the input. Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 14:34
  • I can't tell you how many times I walked users over the phone through typing a bunch of DOS commands, and there would be this long pause and I would ask, "Did you press Enter?" I had to learn when to tell them to press it, because usually they did not learn when to. Web / mobile seems eerily similar. I imagine that eventually, long voice commands will have to end with a 'commit' word, because Alexa is patient.
    – user67695
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


Depends on your audience. I've tested this scenario with a bunch of middle-aged, mostly male, engineers. A little less than half recognized that the magnifying glass icon opened a search form. I tested the same scenario with a younger, web-savvy audience and about 85% understood what the icon meant.

It's an accessibility requirement that forms can be navigated, filled out and sent with keyboard controls alone (including "Enter"), so you will want to keep that aspect of the search form. However, with high-value web controls -- like search boxes -- I figure that "open always beats closed". A big, white search box with a big, honking "Search" button next to it will lead to higher rates of recognition and usage.

  • If it honks like a search button, it's a goose.
    – user67695
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:09

I would recommend some usability testing in the wild. It really depends on the flow. I would argue that even in the mobile world and voice assistant design space that an explicit "Submit" button or command is preferable to an assumption that "Enter" = "Commit". There are other accessibility reasons for being explicit too, consider the visually impaired user for example who uses "Enter" to start a new line, and so on...

Put it this way - if there is no "Submit" option and the user doesn't know "Enter" is the interaction, what are they going to do? Refresh page, navigate away to find it? Risky loss of time and effort with the data input.


You’re using the material design search pattern. It’s a mobile first approach. On mobile it’s more common to use the done button on the keyboard.

On desktop, it’s ok, as accessibility requirement, to allow keyboard to use the interfaces.

Therefore, it’s never wrong or right. It depends from your users (you should know who they are.. are they a bunch of old persons? Are they tech friendly?). Can you test your choices? Try and test. Can’t you test? Go for a safe choice.

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