In many websites, like this one or YouTube for example, after you've done a search (ex. https://ux.stackexchange.com/search?q=something) you can click an option to sort the results by a different criteria (following with the same example, you can click on Newest instead of the default Relevance) and the search is sorted by the new criteria. That's fair enough.

But, if I edit the query (ex. I replace "something" with "anything") and, without clicking on "search" (and there's no instant search here), I click on another sort criteria (ex. votes), my edited query is lost. I find this quite annoying. Shouldn't the edited query be preserved? Moreover, should the search be automatically redone with the edited query?

  • 1
    I feel like this is saying: "When I type in my user name and password without pressing log in, why doesn't it automatically just submit?"
    – UXerUIer
    Sep 3, 2014 at 18:50
  • Also it appears as though you're assuming because "I find this quite annoying."
    – UXerUIer
    Sep 3, 2014 at 18:55
  • A skilled user who edits a URL in order to modify the search results would realize that the modified string won't execute until they resubmit the string. They would know that the criteria buttons could overwrite their manual edit. On the other hand, a novices at URL editing would quickly learn that they don't know what they're doing, and instead use the controls on the page.
    – JeromeR
    Aug 13, 2015 at 5:47

3 Answers 3


There's a couple things to consider with this.

Firstly, what if the user accidentally types something into the field while it still has focus? This would create a new search, and the user would have to edit their query back and re-filter them to get back to the original results.

Secondly, immediately searching for the new typed filed could pose some more questions. For example, when does the site start the new search in relation to the user typing? If it's instant, the page will being flashing responses while the user types. If the site is accessible, it needs to have a Submit button. Typing into the textfield cannot submit the query.

A better option may be an autocomplete field that lets the user see that they've typed in something, and then they can continue typing or select an option when they're ready to submit it and have the results change.

With all that in mind, both ways are perfectly acceptable, it just depends on how the user has decided to code their site, and which factors they've deemed to be most important.

  • My question is in the context of NON-instant search. Just typing will never start a search. So, accidentally typing into the field (which I think it's very improbable and so I wouldn't optimize for this case anyway) will not trigger a new search (a new search will only be created when clicking on submit or on a filter/sort order option). As for your second point ("immediately searching for the new typed filed could pose some more questions"), I'm not asking about this case, as I'm assuming that only after clicking search or changing filter a new search will be started.
    – Xavi
    Feb 6, 2014 at 17:10
  • 1
    Then you're considering using filters as submit buttons for a form? What about the user who starts typing something and then changes their mind and filters it? If they have no indication that these filter buttons will submit the form, they'll be very confused. Feb 6, 2014 at 23:00
  • Yes, I was considering using filters as submit buttons. Yeah, I don't like it, but I don't like the usual alternative either (i.e. to lose any edits on the search field when changing the filter). Actually, I think the usual behaviour is more frequently annoying. If I start typing to change the previous query, but then I change my mind... I wouldn't expect that clicking on a filter would do the search using the previous query, which is not even visible now (as I've edited it). Anyway, I think I'll use the common route, because the alternative doesn't convince me either.
    – Xavi
    Feb 7, 2014 at 22:38

No, it shouldn't. The query action is on the search button, what you're editing is the query string performed by that action, so without performing that action again, nothing happens, and nothing should happen, this is the correct behavior. Furthermore, the affordance for the url bar is that nothing happens unless you perform an action, otherwise you'd get constant random behaviors. Thus, why should this happen with a search, which has several aspects (location, action, query string) if it doesn't happen with a simple URL? Simply, because it makes no sense.

Think about this: url.com/search/=something

Now, you start to delete the query, so you place your cursor at the end, and delete characters. Now in your proposed scenario, system would try to search for url.com/search/=somethin Then url.com/search/=somethi Then url.com/search/=someth And so on, and so on.

And the smae would happen with an URL, instead of domain.com you'd get domain.co (Colombia's TLD)

So this is why this works like this, and why it's good that it happens this way


Users making more than one change to search/filter criteria will naturally expect the results returned to reflect all changes made and therefore the answer is YES - the search should "be automatically redone with the edited query", as you put it.

For only the second (or last) change to be reflected in the results is unexpected/unintuitive.

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