From a UX perspective, should I make the width of my search suggestion drop list dynamic (width changes depending on the longest suggested term/phrase) OR constant (width remains the same as the width of the search box)?

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1 Answer 1


Every widget has a sweet spot that gives us what we need without being annoying. Search suggestions can be very similar for the first few characters, and the differences between the options happen at the end, or in the middle of the string. I argue that you need to find the proper width for this dropdown through experimentation, but I am biased towards going with a fixed size (big) for two reasons: white space and page rendering stability.

  1. Making the dropdown accommodate the longest result reduces the amount of white space in the dropdown. Our brains need white space it to process information and discern the differences between the results.
  2. When will the system know how long the longest result is? When will the suggestion dropdown change its width? Will it become a moving target while the user is trying to read the results? I don't like moving targets; they annoy me.

These are just two arguments in favor of a fixed width. I don't have any arguments in favor of the dropdown accommodating the longest result.

Also, love your username! :-)

  • 2
    +1 for mentioning moving target because I think that can be annoying as the user type out the search phrase. Thanks. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 16:43

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