There's a case where if I'm searching for a phrase containing punctuation e.g


Can I have the following rules:

  • If there's content matching the exact phrase file.png then just show that content.
  • If there's no content matching the exact phrase, then use the dot as delimiter and show content containing the words file and png separately.

The content is time-based. So the latest posts will appear on top in search results and there's no changing this.

Do the above rules go against user expectation because we're showing them different results depending on whether there's an exact match or not?

3 Answers 3


Why not have it always show exact matches, and then show near matches, with each section labelled?

Otherwise you are doing usability by convention. That should always be a fallback.


It's either one or the other. Search functionality should be consistent foremost.

So you actually have 2 possibilities:

  • searching for "file.png" will show exact matches only:

    • file.png
  • searching for "file.png" will show anything close enough:

    • file.png

    • anything containing "png"

    • anything containing "file"

The exact rules in the 2nd option can vary. It's up to you to decide the definition of "close enough". Whether or not you want to include results like "file1.png", or "fila.png",... But the rule must be consistent. Do not use a different rule if another rule does not give any results. That would be very confusing since the search results will not be consistent. In both cases, if there are no search results, you simply show that as a result, like "No items where found that match your search criterium".

If you cannot choose between the 2, you can offer both options but then you must have your user make a conscious choice. I.e. offer a setting that the user can configure (e.g. choose exact search vs choose approximate search).


I find it far irritating when I cannot remember the file name and try different words that could be in it.

A good experience designer will make sure that the user gets both, the exact search phrase as well as break down the words to show all possible items the user could be looking for.

For example, if I have a folder named: Quicktest Professional,

I remember it's related to testing, but cannot recollect Quick and Professional.

Searching for test, it should search text in the single word as well since that is a possibility.

So, yes, you could have those rules.

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