I'm trying to build a live search with ~1000+ search items. So until a user types 3 or more characters, there would be too many results, and most of them are not that relevant.

So I was wondering what is the best way to handle results until those 3 characters. Upon research, I only found two ways:

  1. Show a notification "type 3 or more characters": enter image description here

  2. Just show all results regardless of relevance.

Are there any other ways?

  • Do you have any technical limitations or other business requirements that may prevent you from just outright showing results immediately? Also what are the results based on (most popular, alphabetical, etc)?
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Feb 18 at 20:38
  • Currently results are just sorted by time. No limitation to show immediately, I'm even thinking about adding a slight delay :)
    – Runnick
    Commented Feb 18 at 21:18
  • My answer to another question might work here: ux.stackexchange.com/a/149814/171338 Commented Feb 19 at 8:08

1 Answer 1


It is great to know that you do not have any technical limitation here – and I would love to work with such systems too haha. Last time I had to make a similar decision in a flow I was working on, I had technical limitation to it – I wasn't able to show any results if the search input is too small as it would generate a slow response from the server.

In your case, I would go with

Show all the results. And work on optimising for the suggestions being most effective.

  1. There are cases where the user finds their result after entering the first two letters itself. For instance, it has become useful for me a lot of times with just 2 letters, and the top result was the right one I needed. enter image description here
  • In this case, the question would be, how do you optimise the result so that its helpful for the user the most. 1) You may show the top searched ones at top 2) You may show the last updated one first 3) You may show previously searched ones first. 1/2/3 depends on your product use cases and user's JTBDs.
  1. Familiarity – for most 'top' search products (most used in daily life) out there, there is no such limitation. And hence users are more familiar to it.

  2. Your user need not be curbed their freedom OR be limited to results only after entering 3 characters. Let the user make the decision if they wanna read through the suggestions that the system gives. This gives them more freedom and creates a feeling of 'in control' than the system blocking it for them – which could have negative feeling effects on some users too.

  • Yeah I guess it's the most logical way — better to show unrelated ones than none.
    – Runnick
    Commented Feb 24 at 9:54

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