What drawbacks might there be if when someone enters a term in search where there is only 1 result, the page is simply presented (skipping a search results display)

Currently, maytag.com will redirect to the rebates page if you enter that term in the search form.

The benefit is that we dont have to fear abandonment or misinterpretation of the search results but the con is that we are assuming this is the page they want.

  • Only when it is the exact match, for example IMDB.com search – ripu1581 Feb 25 '13 at 17:44

One drawback is that skipping the search results display breaks the user's mental model of how search works (from John Ferrara's Search Behavior Patterns):

  • User types in a search
  • Search engine gives back matching results
  • User reads the results and picks the best one

Breaking that model is not necessarily a bad thing, but you'll want to make sure the user perceives what you've done (returned the actual page rather than a search engine results page) and why (because there is only one matching result).

Further, I think you'll want to give users options to break out of the single result if it did not match their intention. Healthy search behaviors include (from Peter Morville's Behavior Patterns collection, and his book Search Patterns):

  • Quit - can be because of success, or because of failure and the user has given up.
  • Narrow - constraining a search that returned too many results
  • Expand - broadening a search that returned too few results
  • Pearl Growing - given a good result, finding more like it
  • Pogosticking - bouncing between the search results and the individual pages returned. Some pogosticking is healthy - users are sampling the results.

The design you describe seems to support only the Quit behavior. Assuming the search was successful in helping the user reach their goal, that's fine. Otherwise, the user is dumped on a page irrelevant to their needs, possibly with no clear path back.

You can accommodate a single-result strategy, and still support other healthy behaviors. For example, by explaining that the search returned only one result, and that the page itself is displayed, users are less likely to become disoriented. By providing opportunity to refine their search, you allow the user to re-target an errant search:

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While Ripu1581 did point out that IMDB directly takes you to the result page if a single match is found, it does inform the user by using an auto-complete option or by showing the matches found as shown below.

enter image description here

Thus the user is informed about the result and hence can choose to go with that one answer or go and update his search query as needed.

However if you directly go to the product page on exact match of product, then the user could potentially get confused about how he ended there (since the control was taken from him with regards to how he reached the page). This is a violation of Neilson's heuristic as shown below

Visibility of system status: The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

Another issue which could frustrate him is that he might have entered a wrong search term which somehow had a exact and only match in the data base and he finds himself in the product details page.

My recommendation would be to go with an autocomplete option which shows the user the corresponding matches and allows him to determine what his next steps would be keeping him in control at all times. as specified by Neilson's heuristics

User control and freedom : Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

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  • 1
    +1 for mentioning auto-complete as feedback for a redirection. – Brian Feb 25 '13 at 18:41

In my opinion the core aspect that matters the most is what a user perceives. When I search on any website, I can never say how many results would show up. Even when there is only one expected result, (like I think I typed an exact match), having more than one results DOESN'T confuse me that "WHAT HAS GONE WRONG".

Now reverse this pattern and see what you are trying to do. If there is one result only, why should I as a user complain that I am only being shown one result? I wouldn't even think about this other possibility that I COULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO THE SEARCH RESULT STRAIGHT AWAY. So practically there is nothing which you are saving here. Such behavior is not expected by the user the first place.

--- BUT ---

Taking the user to its searched item straight-away has an experience cost.

  • First it would be hard for me to understand that WHAT HAS HAPPENED. If I was not previously familiar with the item I was searching, it would be even more confusing for me. I needed a path to understand that I searched, I was shown results and it was my action that has taken me to this product or page.

  • How much are we saving by doing that? It the "saving" worth the possible "confusion"?

  • This rule of opening result before showing it in the search list is an anomaly which is likely not to happen often (and not many websites do that). If as a User I had performed 10 searches before that had generated multiple results, I would try to understand the system pretty well but when this behavior would change, it would surely break my learning and would want me to learn this new behavior again. Why would I make my user learn a new rule while his previous learning was enough and doing the job?

  • Dynamic search is getting common and search results are populated while you are typing. But when you click an entry on the dynamic list, it is equivalent to clicking an searched result from the searched results list. If you only had one matching result, even then you are clicking that single result from the results list to take user to the product itself. Dynamic search is in perfect harmony with the standard search model.


Don't take your users to "searched item straight-away". By doing that, you are likely to confuse him more than save him any effort. User doesn't expect this kind of behavior and this is an extra burden on his learning muscles.

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