Search Combo Box: Displaying Popular Keywords

by on 03/06/11 at 12:29 am

Most search boxes on websites allow users to search for information using keywords. But sometimes users might not have a keyword in mind to search for.

Instead of searching the site with their own keywords, they may want to see what others are searching for. How can we design a search box that allows users to search for their keywords, but at the same time allows them to see the keywords that are popular among users?

In comes a search combo box. A search combo box is more dynamic than a search box. A search box only includes a textfield for entering keywords. A search combo box combines a textfield with a dropdown box. It not only allows users to search for their keywords, but it also allows them to see popular keywords that others are entering.

This adds an extra dimension to search that a normal search box doesn’t have. All users have to do to open the dropdown box is click the disclosure arrow. When it opens, users would see a list of popular keywords that they can choose from to search the site. This allow users to explore the site in an engaging way that they couldn’t before.

A search combo box works well for large sites that have a lot of content. There’s usually so much content on these sites that users have trouble thinking of the right keywords to search for. There are even users who prefer not to use the navigation to find content.

Search is a feature that most users are comfortable with because it targets what the user wants. And getting to the content you want usually takes less work than looking for it in the navigation page-by-page. A search combo box allows you to promote popular topics, so that users can discover new information based on interest level.

Searching and discovering are two different activities that users both need for a complete experience. A search box only allows users to do one of those. A search combo box combines search and discovery so that users can choose which one suits them best.


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Author and founder of UX Movement. Founded this site to help you learn user experience design for a more user-friendly world.

3 Responses to “Search Combo Box: Displaying Popular Keywords”

  1. Daniel

    Mar 6th, 2011

    Very good post, would love to integrate such an advanced search into my wordpress blog.

    is there anything like this out there to get installed in my blog? do you know such a wordpress plugin?

    would love to get suggestions.

    best regards

  2. Peter

    Mar 6th, 2011

    I like the idea of being able to show users common search items if they’d like them, but I wonder if this execution is clear to the user. The down arrow doesn’t clearly communicate that clicking on the arrow will give the user common search terms. If I saw it, I would probably not think it was clickable, or I might think it was a way to filter search categories (like Amazon allows you to search by ‘All Departments’ or select a sub-dept). Have you done any testing around this? It would be great to hear how the average user responds.

  3. Obelisk

    Jul 8th, 2011

    Hey I noticed that this feature hasn ‘t been in UXMovement ‘s search box yet (?) 😀

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