When a user navigates to a search page, but no query has been given yet, what should be put where the search results normally go? Are there any best practices?

I've seen both blank page content (Google Instant) and search instructions (some CMSs do this). Does anyone have experience with filling this void?

  • Google seems to have it right. A person is there to accomplish one task, just focus on the one task (show the search field)
    – DA01
    Jun 4, 2012 at 4:37
  • 2
    Instead of including a hyperlink to the search page, why don't you include a search field which takes input and then navigates to the search page?
    – user15170
    Jun 4, 2012 at 4:45
  • It would be helpful to know more about the kinds of users you have, and the kinds of searches they are likely to do. Can you include that in the question? Jun 4, 2012 at 6:29

5 Answers 5


You don't have to be afraid of blank pages.

However, placeholder text and search instructions can be added, if the "rules" of the query are not explicit.

For example: You only have a field and a "Search client" button. The user will understand what to do. But, if the query can find the client by his name, his address, his phone number, you could explain it with placeholder or help tooltip.

Also, you can define the area where the results will be desplayed. The user will be able to understand what will happen when he submit the query.

  • 1
    +1 - "don't be afraid of blank pages". Not that they are idea, but there are cases where they are appropriate. Jun 4, 2012 at 9:09
  • another ++ for "You don't have to be afraid of blank pages." I think large blank space is often visually jarring because we're not accustomed to it. Better that than unnecessary / confusing content. Less is more! Jun 4, 2012 at 19:09

It depends on your user. Study your user, see what they do in their environment. Don't ask them; study them.

If they search for one thing 80% of the time, then provide them a page with just that search option (like google). Make the rest of the 20% as an option or advanced search (again, similar to google).

If your user searches on various things throughout their day, then provide them a screen to do that...again, focus on what the user does 80% of the time. As an enhancement, I would also suggest some easy ways to search within a single search field, similar to gmail, but make sure it mimics your advanced search view.

  • title:Romeo
  • author:Shakespeare

I think very first thing should be autofocus on the search input. You can have some placeholder text which describe or give an example how to or what to search.

  • Placeholder and autofocus go not so well together. In some browsers, e.g. Firefox, the placeholder text disappears completely when the input field gets focus. This process takes just a moment and the placeholder flashes, which is not so good from a ux point of view. The user may ask himself "What was that?!" and then try to "get it back" just to dicover, that it's not useful. If you only have the search box on that page, autofocus with no placeholder. If it's integrated somewhere else, don't focus but use placeholder.
    – Michael
    Jun 4, 2012 at 6:48
  • Actually you are right i have never seen this anywhere. But there are few examples that remove placeholder text when user starts typing (e.g. smashingmagazine.com). So we can try with autofocus & placeholder at same time. Jun 4, 2012 at 7:28
  • The example you mention (sm) does not use autofocus. Also, whether the placeholder disappears directly after focus or after the first letter has been typed, depends on the browser as well. Some do it this way, some the other.
    – Michael
    Jun 4, 2012 at 7:35
  • @Michael Firefox is planning to change that behavior to be like Chrome so the placeholder isn't removed
    – Ben Brocka
    Jun 4, 2012 at 15:01
  • autofocus = annoying. please don't.
    – DA01
    Jun 4, 2012 at 16:48

It depends upon the task and type of application. If it is a global search then give only a Text box with auto disappear text showing some example of keywords to be entered. or "please enter keyword or phrase you want to search"

Secondly if it is a specific search then it should have some filters supporting to the query for quick and guided search

Thirdly, auto suggest would help users.


No Search Page

I don't agree that there needs to be (explicit) search pages without a query. Usually, the search box (where you enter the query) is on another page full of different content. Once I type my query into the search box, I am taken - not to a search page - but hopefully to a results page where I will find what I was looking for.

Useful Search Page

If you really need an explicit search page (in contrast to a results page), you may display a few probable hits already. For example, recent additions to the website, last selections of the user, most frequently selected on this site, etc. (be creative for your use case!) can populate the area where the search results would appear. If you do this well, the user needs not type in a query at all.

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