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Working on a travel website UI. When I referred to some websites they use “Find Flights” on buttons used to lookup flights.

TripAdvisor India's button

In general, would you recommend I use "Search Flights" or "Find Flights” on my button?

enter image description here

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With regard to English in general, "Search for Flights" and "Find Flights" would work equally well. "Find Flights" is subtly optimistic that there are flights that match the user's criteria. That may or may not be good.

In desktop user interfaces, Find and Search are distinct commands:

  • A Find command scans the current content and highlights content that matches the criteria (e.g., Firefox, Adobe Acrobat, MS Office).

  • A Search command scans a collection of remote objects (e.g., in documents on hard drive or records in database) and lists the identities and summary information of the objects. (e.g., OSX, MS Windows after around '97).

My sense is that originally web sites used "search" in the same way as desktops (e.g., Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, EBay, Craig's List, and, of course, we call it a "search box" not a "find box" on various sites no matter what it says). I think the use of "find" for Search functionality is a recent development, which I haven't noticed until now. If so, such use undermines the useful means we have built up to distinguish Search and Find functionality.

You could let majority rule and go with whatever most travel sites use under the assumption that that is what most users are used to, However, if it's close to a tie, I'd recommend going with "search" in your case so we can begin to re-establish the distinction between Find and Search.

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    this is what is called "Neuro-lingustic programming", and hence "Find" motivates the user more than "Search". Oh, and both are grammatically correct. – rexkogitans Sep 30 '16 at 13:11
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    @rexkogitans It's very controversial that the word find creates higher motivation than "search". – Kristiyan Lukanov Sep 30 '16 at 13:59
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    NLP itself is controversial. – Almo Sep 30 '16 at 14:46
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If you started with a list of records/objects, FIND would be more grammatically correct.

If you just started with a Search field (and nothing else), then SEARCH would be grammatically correct.

So in the English language, it is subtle but important difference between the two words. I started my career in software as a technical writer a long time ago:-)

However, ultimately it depends on your visitors. Normally I would recommend running a live A/B test where the only difference is the button name and monitor conversions, and would pass 50% of all visitors to version A and 50% to version B.

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    +1, although, wouldn't Search for flights be more correct, from a grammatical point of view? However, annoyingly, that would mean that the button would become even bigger, in order to accommodate the "for"... – Greenonline Sep 30 '16 at 10:04
  • Great answer, good argumentation, +1. And yes, A/B testing something like this would always be the best thing to do since it will heavily depend on your visitors. – MJB Sep 30 '16 at 11:42
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    Why A/B test everything? We should focus our limited resources to A/B test what makes significant impact. Button labels are usually less important than the button positioning. – Zanon Sep 30 '16 at 16:28
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    Maybe I don't understand AB testing, but what are you really testing there? Are people really more or less likely to click a Search or Find button, especially when it's (probably) the only button? – Kevin Workman Sep 30 '16 at 17:22
  • @KevinWorkman generally it is considered good practice not to prejudge the results of any test - let the data and the insights inform your design, but the point here is this community is unlikely to prove that one is better than the other than debate subtleties of English grammar. – SteveD Sep 30 '16 at 18:52
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Your users are wanting to "find a flight from A to B for X passengers", so "find flights" seems appropriate. "search flights" would only be appropriate if you have a list of flights to search (otherwise it's grammatically incorrect) and while "search for flights" would be appropriate it is longer and, at least to me, less intuitive - the use of the word "search" implies that the operation is too detailed, when in reality all I want is a list of suitable flights.

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A/B test

The most valid thing to do is to run an A/B test. This way you will know what is the answer for your particular context and users. As SteveD pointed out just put two variations where the difference is only the button text, e.g. Search Flights vs Find Flights.

Copy from competitors

However, if you don't have the time or resources to run it, you can do other thing. Go to Google, find your competitors, and see how they have named the button. Make an Excel sheet and there you put all your competitors and how they have named the button. It is a good idea to list only well established and famous websites because they have probably already run this test. Use Alexa to chech their traffic.

Generally, it is a safe bet if you copy from your most successful competitor. And I don't think that the difference in conversion rate between the 2 variants will be bug.

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    Yes, A/B testing is a great method, but your second point isn't all that valid in my opinion. If something works for your competitors doesn´t mean it will work for you, and there can be a very significant difference in conversion rate between the two. Related: uxmyths.com/post/718217318/… – MJB Sep 30 '16 at 12:19
  • @MJB Yeah, you are absolutely right, but I just added it as a suggestion if there is not enough traffic or time for the A/B test. – Kristiyan Lukanov Sep 30 '16 at 13:09
  • Alright, I guess it's an alright alternative. – MJB Sep 30 '16 at 14:16
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I'd say it depends:

  • From a persistence point of view it would depend on the text of any other controls with similar functionality you have in your solution. This adds to what SteveD mentioned about your view. If you haven't populated the view you might consider using "search", if it is populated use "find".
  • Another perspective would be to make the controller intuitive; you wish for your user to not have to process too much information so I'd suggest looking at major search engines and consider how they have decided to approach the problem.
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I think we should use "Search". To find something we need to search. Also when we search we are looking for options but when we do find we have something concrete and look for that one thing.

Example: I need a flight from LAS - MIA. I searched it on x site and found a fare. So when I enter my destination I still open to options and I do search.

Same case would be find if I see something upfront on the site, clicked on it and gone through. There I can say that I found.

So, I would say "Search Flights" or "Search"

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    You are missing for. For example, "I searched for it on x site"... Or, "I searched x site for a flight". – Greenonline Sep 30 '16 at 23:46
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"Search Flights" fails to convey the intended meaning (the software doesn't search flights, it searches some database for flights). As Michael Zuschlag said, "Find Flights" is subtly optimistic that there are flights that match the user's criteria. "Search for Flights" conveys the correct meaning. If "Search for Flights" is too long, how about "Seek Flights"?

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