Our web application has a task-based secondary nav bar which, for the "Documents" primary nav item, offers...

Documents Find a document | Add a document

The "Find a document" item links to a page containing a search form that when submitted shows a list of documents.

It has been suggested that we change "Find a document" to "Search for a document". My argument against this is that the task the user is trying to accomplish is "finding a specific document that they have in mind". They may have to search in order to find it, but that's not actually what they're trying to get done - it's just a means to that end.

Does anyone have an opinion on this?


  • "Find a document" saves a few characters...less screen noise! Jul 5, 2011 at 16:57

3 Answers 3


Although it's not precisely the same as what you're doing, librarians often face this kind of labeling problem. The general consensus that has developed is that "Find" is a better fit for the user's mental model of what they're doing than "search".

You may find these two pages by John Kupersmith at UCB helpful:

Again, this does not necessarily apply equally well to your domain -- it sounds like the tool you're labeling is for a known-item search in which the user knows for a fact the document exists because they put it there themselves, rather than an exploratory search for resources on a broad topic. So, take it with a grain of salt.


Do you already have a main search field? - I was thinking you could just have the following with an inline search box...

Documents: Add new | [.........] Search

...but if you have a search box somewhere already then you don't want two to confuse the issue.

Maybe your search form is more complex, but nevertheless an inline search box is such a common thing everyone will know what to do with it, maybe it takes you to some results with advanced filter options if required.

You call it a search form yourself so stick with the terminology. If I go to amazon or any other site, whether I'm looking for a specific thing I have in mind or more broadly for items relating to my search term, I use the same thing and it's called a search box. Even someone like http://www.find-book.co.uk/ calls it a search box not a find box.

I don't see why the word document needs to repeated again along the line (add document, and find a document, or search for a document) - it's already at the beginning. Just use the words add or add new, and search


I like Find a Document over Search for a Document because it more accurately represents the user's end goal.

Users don't really want to spend time searching, they want to find what they are looking for.

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