I have been asked to review a search form

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This is the default view for a search engine on a web application.

This approach is more like an advanced search and it jars with me. I am told that this is a common user behaviour for when the search must be very accurately controlled. But I am of the opinion that the search engine's algorithm must be terrible if the user is forced into this form!

My question: are multi field search forms like this ever used in the place of a singular search box and if so, are there any examples where this kind of complex search is preferable to a single search box?


Multi-field search boxes are not the end of the world and yes Google and other major search engines do have the horsepower to distinguish and muddle through what the user wants vs. what the user typed but this might not be the current case with this implementation.

Your opinion:

But I am of the opinion that the search engine's algorithm must be terrible if the user is forced into this form!

is very biased toward what a multi-billion dollar company can do.

Depending on the output format of the search results you might be able to implement something more elegant such as DataTables filtering and with this method the user won't be forced to think too hard before knowing what types of things they can search for and what results to expect in return.

I do agree that a multi-field search form isn't the most user-friendly but it is wrong to assume that the algorithm is terrible. Have you tried using the search? Does it return what you expected?

  • I'd also add that while Google is often very good at determining my meaning, the only way to accomplish something as accurate as the form above is to use advanced operators, which are much more cumbersome to get right and remember. While I get the knee-jerk reaction to simplify-as-a-first-resort, sometimes complexity really is the most user-friendly! – nathanziarek Aug 29 '14 at 14:37
  • @nathanziarek Yes, a simplified search-form is a fruit-less endeavor especially if your user-base is interested in locating information right away rather than having the time to explore what is presented. The inclusion of plural searching such as Doc #(s), Title(s), etc bring the complication of a single-search field to a whole new level. However, this format that OP has encountered is reminiscent of school/college library search forms especially when finding a book/scholarly article, I simply never used it :) – MonkeyZeus Aug 29 '14 at 14:44

I have implemented a similar stuff using Solr and the approach is to drive the search by 'keywords' and add more filters based on user request. If your search engine supports faceted search your search query would be q=searchTerm&fq1=filter1&fq2=filter2 etc.,

Here is the pen - http://codepen.io/balajinatarajan/pen/ezyal

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