The current search bar design has search type filter tabs that allow the visitors to search for various result types. We looked at the site analytics and learned that site visitors are not using the filter so we are considering simplifying the search bar visual by removing the tabs.

When we tested the simplified search bar design via usertesting, we learned that even though the users like the new look, it's not as easy to identify what they can search for (compare to the design with filter).

I am wondering what are some of the ways to educate the users about possible things to search? I know that search placeholder text is one of the ways but can't think of other ideas at the moment.

  • This reminds me of another question I answered a while ago: How do we represent that a search feature has "intelligent" capabilities?. It might not be exactly what you're asking, but still tries to solve a similar problem: "how do we let the user know there is more to this search bar?" I was going to rehash the answer I wrote there, but I'll just point you to the original instead. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 21:36
  • @maxathousand thanks for the response! I think the question you posted is definitely similar and it gave me some ideas around using iconography or other indicators to help users identify what to search for. Thanks again!
    – Poyi
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 19:55

8 Answers 8


I think one idea to consider is what happens after the search. Let's imagine that your user will search anyways and not give it much thought. The big majority of your users will probably fall into this category, so providing guidance after the search is probably better, since they were obviously not ready to filter before searching, which could mean they were anxious to miss something on the search results.

So you could instead provide all the results that match, plus suggestions to narrow down the result. Then you are teaching the user how to do a more advanced search and they can actually visualize the results as they go narrowing down. I think Pinterest is a great example of this type of search.

  • 1
    I think that this would combine nicely with the ‘placeholder example queries’ to give the user an idea where to start.
    – user109724
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 15:03
  • 1
    Yes, so if they are the anxious type of user they can just search a less specific term and see all the results and if they are looking to go faster this would also help. Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 15:08

What you find about this type of solution?

If user click on search, modal with options shows others option.

enter image description here


Another idea is to guide the users to searching for specific categories to allow users to easily narrow down their results.

So if I'm on Macys.com and type in 'Shirts' I may get the following suggestions.

Shirts - in Men's

Shirts - in women's

Shirts - in Kid's


I'll try to find an example later.



You could do like amazon : propose filters next to the search bar so the user direclty know in which section he is about to search enter image description here


My best choice for this problem is show options to user like : if user searching text abc then show option like

Search abc in pqr

Search abc in xyz

According to popularity of categories. Below suggestion show exact match information also. How to show option while user search something e.g. abc


Placeholder text, but changing - the change attracts the users to take a look at it, and the examples can show different options.

The examples could rotate between:

  • Hobbit
  • author: J. R. R. Tolkien
  • date < 2.09.1973
  • Hobbit & date < 2.09.1973
  • whatever your search supports

Example of search bar changing it's placeholder: this site


In my experience, adding some direct search items helps users understand what they can do here. The image below is from the App Store. enter image description here

Another idea is when I adjust the wording from 'category' to 'explore', the users seem more willing to browse the category page. Although it may not directly affect the search efficiency in my case, it somehow increases the time they stay on site. The image below is from Medium. enter image description here


Do like the successful UIs do: Many search engines I know (e.g., Google, Ecosia, Duckduckgo) have a simple search field where you enter your terms. The result list shows categories (web, images, video, ...) and/or filters which can be used to focus on a particular result type.

enter image description here

If these categories immediately indicate how many hits are in the category (by counters on the category tab), it also gives the user an indication where to majority of hits actually is. (That counter is not needed for internet search engines because there probably is no search term yielding no results whatsoever ;-)

This design allows the user to switch results types AFTER entering the search terms, i.e., when she has information on which types have how many hits.

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