by anthony on 11/11/10 at 8:50 pm
Nearly 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 initially, it actually isn’t the best practice for many reasons.
The main reason right search buttons aren’t ideal is because they slow users down dramatically when they try to do a search. Users have to visually fixate longer and more times to carry out a search when the search button is on the right of the text field. This takes users more time and work to do a search. Placing the search button on the left of the text field, however, reduces visual fixations and the time it takes for users to do a search.
Because we read from left to right, left search buttons help users see the search label quicker. They can quickly recognize the text field as search and immediately begin typing in their search word. Users are easily reassured that the field they’re typing in is for search because of how near the search button is to their search word. The visual fixations users use on left search buttons are not only less, but shorter because the text field, button and search word are so close to each other. This makes left search buttons faster and more efficient for users.
With right search buttons, the visual distance from the search word to the button is much longer. Most users will fixate at the text field first before they see the search button. This means users have to look all the way to the right after they look at the text field to make sure that the field they’re about to type in is for search. The visual distance for right search buttons is much longer compared to left search buttons. 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. Not only do right search buttons take longer to process visually, but they take longer to execute physically because users have to move their mouse farther to click the search button.
If you care about your users and want them to have the best search experience on your site, consider using left search buttons. If the reasons offered in this article are not enough for you, visit Evaluating the Usability of Search Forms for supporting research and evidence. If the reasons, research and evidence offered are still not enough for you, do your own research and you will see for yourself that left search buttons are faster for users.
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. In this case, doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing works better.