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I have never heard of a wild card search until recently. I cannot find anything that says whether this is bad UX or good UX. My team just says it's outdated, unfortunately I need facts if we are not going to use it. I feel like we should just give the users the capability to search like you normally would with the option to select a checkbox that says "Exact Matches."

Can anyone point me to facts, websites etc. that show why we shouldn't use wildcard character or shed some light on this topic?

Currently these are the facts I have:

  • Wild card character is used by developers, but we should not expect this for our end users. We want to make it as easy as possible for them
  • Outdated (this isn't a strong point because it can be argued against)
  • It's a pro feature but not a bad UX. Think of it like you do hotkeys but less than boolean search. – Darren Bounds Aug 23 '18 at 13:59
  • Wildcards are c?ol, and take about 5 seconds to learn how to use: Providing the >>option<< to use them gives the user more control, and therefore is better UX. Wildcard 101: kb.iu.edu/d/ahsf – PhillipW Aug 24 '18 at 21:42
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Most modern websites use some sort of 'wildcard' search, however they use it without special tags. Instead of specifying a special operator (like *) for a wildcard search they have a smart algorithm.

For instance, when I type in 'alaxy s 9' in the search bar on amazon.com I still get hits for the Samsung Galaxy S9.

Search results of amazon.com

The system matches my search query 'alaxy s 9' with the Galaxy S9. Which is probably what I mean with that search.

Advanced searches, like the wildcard operator and others like 'OR' / 'AND' are becoming more and more outdated. People do not use advanced search anymore. So if your team members mean these operators, yes they are becoming out dated. However, it is not hard to still support them. Likewise offering an 'Exact match' option can help users that know what they are looking for.

The goal of a search option is that people can find what they are looking for faster. For instance, have you noticed the trend of auto suggestions in searches? Nearly every big E-Commerce website offers this tool. Auto suggestions

The auto suggestion is some sort of modern 'wildcard' search.

Conclusion

The 'wildcard' search method in itself is not good or bad UX. The results you show make it good or bad UX. If your search algorithm is not capable of showing the correct results users will become frustrated and that is bad UX.

For me personally I expect a website that offers a search function to show me what I am looking for. With the example above of Amazon, when I type 'alaxy s 9' I expect to see the Galaxy S9.

If you wish to do some further reading on search results you can read a recent article of Kate Morgan from Nngroup. It offers some other great insights on how you can provide better results for your users.

  • Thank you so much!! This is helpful. I expect the same from a search function as well. I would not expect as a user, to have to input an asterisk or some other charcter to get the results I'm looking for. I would think the search should be smart enough to give me those results. – Angela M Aug 24 '18 at 15:07
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Figure out informational knowledge of your customers. And ask yourself: Why do my users use the search function for?

From there you can start with two approaches:

  • Basic search with one or two advanced filters
  • Advanced search

And allow wildcard characters, let users decide.

You can check these features on forums. My best guess is that this feature is not used often.

Example 1:

  • While on any page you get a simple search and dropdown filter enter image description here

  • Then after you hit enter (and this can be used for your wildcard search, below are results) enter image description here

Example 2:

  • Any page

enter image description here

  • Advanced search

enter image description here

  • 1
    Thanks for the thorough answer. This is really helpful. I like the option of doing a simple search and allowing to drill down for those that want to. – Angela M Aug 23 '18 at 19:27

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