We have a page where you can search through roughly 100 products. Since it's not that much products, I want to show all of them when the page load for the first time but a colleague argue that we should make the page empty with just a search box on the first load.

Option 1

< ---------------- search box ----------------> <search button>

<empty page>

Option 2

< ---------------- search box ----------------> <search button>

<result 1>
<result 2>
<result 3>
<result 4>
<result 5>
<result 6>
<result 7>

I get that it doesn't make sense for google to show all the results before a search since there are billion of web pages, but since we only have a few products I thought that it would save the user one step and would make the page look less empty. The page load fast in both case.

So, which option is better?

  • 5
    Have you ever seen an ecommerce site that doesn't show you anything until you start to use the Search option?
    – JonW
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 15:10
  • 1
    100 is nothing show it!
    – JonH
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:16
  • 2
    I counted 46 individual items on Amazon's homepage just now; this is without moving any of the product carousels left nor right. Refresh me, what is your colleagues argument again? In fact, the only time I received a "blank" page was when I tried searching for sdffdgdfdfgdfsgfddsfg. I'm even looking at a specific rice cooker and Amazon is trying to convince me that it goes great with a bench press!
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:45
  • Update: I am now the proud owner of a benchpress, USB 3.0 cable, and belt sander. I was going to get the rice cooker too but it just did not seem logical to buy it with the other items.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 17:10

7 Answers 7


For questions like this, especially around customer experience in e-commerce, I sometimes try to imagine the situation as it might occur in the brick-and-mortar world.

In an actual shop, would you ask your customers to stare at a wall until they told you what they were looking for? Of course not.

Customers want to browse.


Leaving the page empty isn't a good idea. Even if its not what they are looking for, populating the page with content will encourage interaction with the user. If they cant find what they want, the large amount of content will give them confidence that they can find it with a simple search.


Let's think about this. Why is the user visiting your site? Probably to look at products, right? So show them products asap. Showing just a search box means they'll stop to think about what keywords to use to find the products they're looking for, and if the results don't show what they want then they'll go back and search again. (That is, if they're really motivated to do so. Me, I'd close the window and go to amazon.)

And if you have just ~100, then show them all the products. You can easily show that many products without clutter. Provide some filters. In your case I wouldn't bother with search at all.


It depends on the context of the page and the purpose you are trying to achieve. Are you filtering or are you searching with the form.


When you filter you want them to show them the available products to the customers and let them narrow the filter until they can find whatever they are searching for. As some others have exposed in their answers, how can you expect the users to know which entries are valid if they do not have any idea of what you offer.


When you search, you are expecting the user to have an idea of what it is searching and usually you expect them to search several times. Using your example of google, you usually enter google with what you want to search in mind and google has no clue of what I'm looking for, therefore it make sense to just present a blank form ready to search whatever I want at that particular moment. Notice that I could type anything and I will probably get a result from google.

Since I don't have the context of your page, the general approach (I think this combines several answers) is letting the user make a broad search and then allow the user to refine the search through a filter (Notice that the filter should not affect the search results). Similar to what Amazon, Dell and other e-commerce site does. As for the white you could highlight some products or if it's not the homepage of your site, by clicking on the link to the search page it's default to a all items broadsearch.


The answer like all good answer is it depends.

What is the intent with which the user will land on this page?

If it is with a specific item search in mind, then you should show that items results (if you know it), if not then you can leave it blank to avoid distractions. Let's take EVERYTHING as an example. they have an option to show nothing when searchbox is empty, which i always enable because the default view of showing all items is meaningless to me, i'm using it to find specific items.

if it is to discover new items then show the list of items.


I was going to bring up filtering vs. search, but it looks like someone else already did, so I won't go into it. Plus, there is another question on here that has some more detail about it.

Based on Donna Spencer's article about the Four Modes of Seeking, there are four things someone might be doing with a list of your products.

  1. They could be looking for something specific, e.g. someone told them about a particular product and they want to know more about it. In that case, the search functionality (let them ask a question, and give them answers) would probably help them out quite nicely. Then again, if they can filter down to the one or two items with the name that they know, that would help as well.
  2. They could be exploring your products. They don't know what they're looking for; they're just looking for something that interests them. In that case, if there is not a scannable list of your products elsewhere, then listing all of your products right away would help someone explore your offerings (with pictures and whatever details might help differentiate the products and pique their interest).
  3. They might not know what they need to know to find what they want. This is similar to known-item seeking but in this case they aren't sure exactly what to type in. Maybe they know a feature or two of the product they want, but they don't know what it's called or what category it falls into. You could help these people by providing other types of filters, e.g. price, features, colors, sizes...whatever applies to your products. Those would also help someone who is exploring to get an idea of what is available.
  4. Finally, they may be re-finding something, which would look similar to known-item seeking except that they might not totally remember what the product is called. Their memory of it might be vague, like someone who doesn't know what they need to know, but unlike that person, someone re-finding wants to find something specific. For these people, the additional filters I just mentioned might help, but a listing of your products might also help them find what they remember visually.

TL;DR: Your colleague's idea of not showing results at first is probably the way to go if your users already have a way of scanning, filtering, or otherwise exploring your products. If you don't already have that on the site, though, you might be able to convince your colleague by proposing a "filterable list" of products rather than a "search page." And if you do that, adding more filters may help people find things faster than a simple search field.


A compromise solution - showcase the flagship (or most popular) products on the main page, and enable the user to find the products they are looking for.

100 products per page would be a bit cluttered, and you wouldn't see much in the tiny thumbnail that would be available.

Zero products per page seems like a missed opportunity for sales.

Hence the proposed compromise.

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