Single Search Field v.s. Modal Searchbox? Research?

31 Jul 2008 - 4:53pm
5 years ago
2 replies
708 reads
Brian Herzfeldt
2006

Hi all,
Designing a search component for a travel site that requires you to search.
Can search by city/state, address, point of interest, airport . . . the
usual stuff.

Some travel sites default to a searchbox defaulted to the fields for city.
If the user wants to search by airport or by point of interest they have to
select another mode or tab on the searchbox to get those fields. My
contention is that people get a lot of error messages because they put in
say a point of interest without seeing the mode tab (we know they get a lot
of error messages at this step). T

Some travel sites like hotels.com,Mobissimo have gone to a single searchbox
that allows people to enter whatever they want supporting more 'google' like
search query behavior. My contention is its better to allow people to enter
whatever makes sense to them as long as the system can interpret it and
return reasonable results.

Anyone have any research or wisdom to support either case? Thanks!

Comments

3 Aug 2008 - 10:05am
Bob Dickson
2008

In my own studies, people are surprisinly competent using search
engines like Google. I think 50% of participants found an answer in
the first 10 results they got for queries they formatted themselves.
However, I can't think of anything specific to your question, so
sorry about that.

Another important thing IMHO is to format the results well enough to
make it obvious to the user what they are looking through. If the
data being searched through are strictly formatted (which for travel,
I guess they are), then it should be possible to make a returns page
with a good summary of each returned item. Eg:

From: London, UK; to: Paris, France
Depart: 0630 Heathrow 5 July 2008, arrive 0700 Charles de Gaulle 5
July 2008 (90 minutes)
Return: 1755 Charles de Gaulle 19 July 2008, arrive 2025 Heathrow 19
July 2008 (90 minutes)

This lets me have enough information to decide whether it is suitable
or not (no way! 0630 is far too early to leave!).

One problem might be working out dates. Some people want to travel on
specific dates, but you would have to parse these well and make
guesses (eg, "flight and hotel london to paris 5 Jul 2009 to 19 July
2009" - a human can understand it easily but a machine would find it
harder to reliably understand and not return flights from Paris to
London and then back).

Testing which fields should be shown would be a relatively easy task
to test for. I would guess it depends upon the context of the search
(eg, if the user searched for locations and dates, then the user
probably wants to see them more than the carrier). That would be a
nice little project. I would be interested in hearing how it turns
out.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=31770

4 Aug 2008 - 12:18pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

"Top-down" (ask a lot of questions upfront) search does not fare very well
with users, since it often demands pre-science of expected results. Hence
the popularity of the faceted search: single search field (or simple set of
the fields) --> large set of results --> controls to filter the results to
desired set.

In your message you conflate this search approach with additional problem --
clear indication of modes. The best use of modes, of course, is not to use
them at all.
--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is design of time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On Thu, Jul 31, 2008 at 4:53 PM, Brian Herzfeldt <bherzfeldt at gmail.com>wrote:

> Hi all,
> Designing a search component for a travel site that requires you to search.
> Can search by city/state, address, point of interest, airport . . . the
> usual stuff.
>
> Some travel sites default to a searchbox defaulted to the fields for city.
> If the user wants to search by airport or by point of interest they have to
> select another mode or tab on the searchbox to get those fields. My
> contention is that people get a lot of error messages because they put in
> say a point of interest without seeing the mode tab (we know they get a lot
> of error messages at this step). T
>
> Some travel sites like hotels.com,Mobissimo have gone to a single
> searchbox
> that allows people to enter whatever they want supporting more 'google'
> like
> search query behavior. My contention is its better to allow people to enter
> whatever makes sense to them as long as the system can interpret it and
> return reasonable results.
>
> Anyone have any research or wisdom to support either case? Thanks!
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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