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Context: I’m designing a classic search engine for academics so they can find download paper published by their peers.

Situation: When users are presented with a numbered list of results, sorted by relevance and starting with the most relevant result, the next step it to process the result, most likely by choosing one or more items for further investigation.

In my usability tests, the vast majority of participants did not make use of the facet on their left to refine their searches. They believe that search is fast and easy enough, providing immediate access to information and giving them what they want.

My hypothesis if it’s not the most popular function, should it be placed in the less optimum areas of the screen, life to the right? But using not using the tried-and-true refine/facted on the left refine/faceted search will hassle the users of having to relearn new system.

  • A more provocative question: if people aren't using it, why include it at all? – Alex Feinman Jun 11 '15 at 14:09
  • 98% of people don't use Boolean operators also, but ... somethings, it's necessary. – Benoit Meunier Jun 11 '15 at 14:18
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I'd argue that left-hand search refining is not a universal system.

Google places search refining immediately below the search bar:

Google Example

This very site places search refining on the right side of the page:

UX Example

If you need the left-hand space for more popular functions, then relocating the search refining tools will should not hinder experience significantly. And although you found refining to be rarely used, it's still an important feature to effective search that should be left in, especially when trying to locate very specific results.

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