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search examples

The Search function allows users to enter keywords and operators (and, or, not) into a text field and find information that matches the search criteria entered.

Data below is from 75 leading e-commerce sites, collected in May, 2002. [sites examined]


Frequency of Search

93% of sites in the sample provided a global Search function.


Location of Search

Location of Search was plotted on an 800 by 600 pixel grid.[details]

search location - plot

scale for chart

[actual size view of plot]



Search was found primarily on the left side of the page or at the top of the page. This corresponds only somewhat with the results of a study conducted by Michael Bernard, who examined where users expect to find common e-commerce functions. In this study, participants expected Search primarily in the top-center area of the page.


Presentation Style

Sites presented global search as either a text field and button (allowing direct entry of a search on every page) or as a link leading to a Search page providing search functionality:

Text field and button
Link leading to a Search page


Search was mostly referred to simply as“Search,” but was also referred to as Keyword Search, Product Search or “Finding a Product.”

Text field/button: Search
Text field/button: Keyword Search
Text field/button: Product Search
Link: Search
Text field/button: Finding a Product
There was, however, considerable variation in the exact wording of the Search label, which sometimes included the option to search a particular area of a site.

[view frequencies of exact labels]


Icon Use

Only two sites (3%) of sites in the sample used on icon to help identify the Search function; in both cases a magnifying glass was used.


Option to Search an Particular Area of a Site

27% of sites providing Search provided the option to narrow the search to a subsection of the site. This was most commonly provided by having a drop-down menu adjacent to the search field, which was variously positioned left, right, below, or above the text field:

Drop-down left
Drop-down right
Drop-down below
Drop-down above
List of subsearch options each with a separate “Go” button
Radio buttons below
[view subsearch examples]

Advanced Search

33% of sites providing Search provided some type of Advanced Search link leading to a page where users can enter more detailed search criteria, such selecting a specific manufacture or a desired price range. Most sites simply labeled this link “Advanced Search,” though other labels were also used:

Advanced Search
Advanced Product Search
Detailed Search
More Search Options
Power Search

Explicit Search by Item Number

21% of sites providing Search explicitly supported searching using an item or product number. Most commonly this was done using text that tells users they could enter either a keyword or an item number in the Search field.

Single search field with text that tells the user they may enter either a keyword or an item number
Separate search field for entering item number
Separate search link for entering an item number
Single search field with pull-down menu to select search type (keyword or item number)
Single search field with radio buttons to select search type (keyword or item number)
  [view item number search examples]


©Heidi P. Adkisson. 2005. All rights reserved.
Related Studies
Examining User Expectations for the Location of Common E-Commerce Web Objects
January 2002
Wichita State University