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We are making a mobile news app. It has a menu with a search field inside. When the user starts searching, we show an overlay with a loading wheel to show that something is going on.

If the user taps the logo (goes to front page) or the menu (with a list of news categories), is it ok to read into this that the user wants to do something else and interrupt the search?

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Yes absolutely. Every action a user takes should interrupt all other activities for several reasons:

  • Data load. Loading data is (often) costly and we want to use as little as possible running a mobila app. Threading should be avoided.
  • Expectations. User expect a mobile app to respond quickly at the time they do something. If you're ever used a search interface which do incremental search based on the text string changes with a lot of data taking seconds to load on each letter is frustrating. Mobile users never have enough time to wait.
  • Server load. If your hosting your app in the cloud you may be charged for memory and processor usage. Having unwanted searches running in the background adds server load and cost you more than you want.
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I basically agree with Benny Skogberg's answer. However I think it would also be safe to display a "Do you really want to abort the search?" confirm message, but only if the search usually takes a lot of time. Accidental taps can be frustrating if you've been waiting minutes for a result.

I wouldn't display a confirmation message if the search is trivial and can easily be repeated in seconds though.

  • True, but sensing if it is accidental click or desired click is very important. Prompting a message stating "are you sure" all the time is very annoying when it was a desired interruption. So it is important to profile the user behaviour with help of bounce rate. If user seraches and interrupts and goes to differnt page and immediately searches again for same entry and again interrupts; now it is safe to assume that this is an accidental click and so prompt for confirmation the second time and not thrfirst time. – PrashanthKrish Jul 26 '14 at 3:13

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