by anthony on 11/11/10 at 8:50 pm
Every website on the web today, places their search field before their search button. It’s done this way because to do a search, the user enters a search word first before clicking the button. While placing the search field before the button might make sense, it isn’t the best practice for many reasons.
Research shows that right search buttons slow users down because they create more and longer visual fixations. Placing the search button on the left of the text field reduces visual fixations and the time it takes to do a search. Because we read from left to right, left search buttons help users spot the search label quicker. You don’t need any other labels except the button label. This makes the search bar easier to find. The visual fixations are not only less, but shorter because of how close the text field and button label are. This reassures users that the field they’re typing in is for search.
With right search buttons, the visual distance from the search word to the button is longer. Users will fixate on the text field first before they see the search button. This means they have to move their eyes a long distance to make sure the field they’re about to type in is for search. When users finish typing in their search word, they have to look all the way to the right yet again to click the search button. This also means that they have to move their mouse farther to click the search button. But most users will press the ‘enter’ key after typing instead of clicking the button. The button is just there for novice users who tend to use search buttons.
If you care about your users and want them to have the best search experience on your site, consider using left search buttons. Almost all websites on the web today use right search buttons. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do. Sometimes doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing works better.