I am working on a job board site at the moment. We have a sidebar filter system for our users to filter their results. We have only just implemented testing to track what our users are searching (though the site and the search has been live for over 6 months). The sidebar filter design was implemented based on seek.com.au (and was a decision made by the product manager rather than the design team).
We are now looking at converting our sidebar filters into a filter bar across the top of the site, without having much data to base this decision on. The argument I am being faced with is that other job sites like www.careerone.com.au have a bigger UX budget than us and "must have done the user testing to choose this kind of design". I have said that I would much rather wait until we have data that shows us conclusively that the sidebar filters are not being used for searches, than a knee-jerk change based on what others have implemented.
So I guess my question is - does anyone have experience with designing searches that have been successful, and what methods did you use to test them? What type of search would work best in this situation?
I'm totally open to new ideas and am not drawn specifically to one or the other. I just feel a bit lost on how to get my team to listen to reason before changing our design.