I'm not interested in the UI of search boxes and results, but the behaviour of a keyword search. Features like stemming, synonyms, disambiguation, typo correction etc. What makes a great experience for the process of typing in a query and receiving some relevant results?

I realise this is a broad question, but when researching online I'm struggling to find studies or guidance on these aspects of the search experience, as opposed to what the search box should look like, and how the results are presented.

  • 1
    Personal moan at the degeneration of Google thinking "more results must be better"... if someone wants a specific search, do a specific search. If that only returns 5 results, so be it.
    – TripeHound
    Aug 13, 2018 at 9:22

1 Answer 1


NNG has a good article on how people use searches. Although the article doesn't give you direct guidelines for how they should behave, it does give you insights as to how people are using them.

The main points are:

  1. If a search fails, their query reformulation get's less successful on the 2nd and 3rd attempts.

Typical users are very poor at query reformulation: If they don't get good results on the first try, later search attempts rarely succeed. In fact, they often give up.

  1. Most user's are incapable of using Boolean and advanced search functions. So make sure the search can handle very short queries well.

In our recent search study, the mean query length was 2.0 words. Other studies also show a preponderance of simple searches. Most users cannot use advanced search or Boolean query syntax.

  1. Scoped searching might make it easier for successful searches so categorize your results and offer users to search within categories.

...as websites continue to grow and offer multiple services in a single site, my attitude toward scoped search is changing. I now believe scoping can be sufficiently useful if you offer it in areas of the site that are both clearly delimitated and address specific problems.

Source: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/search-visible-and-simple/

  • It does provide some actionable and relevant information.The main issue I have with this article though is that it does not cite any research on the subject.
    – asiegf
    Aug 13, 2018 at 17:15
  • It is hidden within a linked text on the article page. I guess NNG has some discoverability problems there haha... Anyway here it is: nngroup.com/reports/… Aug 15, 2018 at 6:16

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