Empty search query: what result?

16 Jun 2008 - 4:42am
6 years ago
9 replies
3230 reads
Liou Yamane
2008

Hi there,

I have encountered the following problem several times at my current job as a IxD-er without finding a satisfying solution:
"What to do when a search is executed with no input, thus an empty search query?" Concretely, this means hitting the search button next to an empty text field.

I am doubting whether this should show all results, especially if you have some filters (think of genre for music for example), or no results at all. In the latter case, an extra <return all results> button or something of the kind could be used. Somehow, giving all results with an empty box seems counter-intuitive.

On the other hand, a colleague programmer said the criterium would be how big the set of possible results is. In the case of Google, there is no sense in showing all results. In a more finite database of a specific website, this would have more sense. But now, I am looking at the article search of the NY Times, and it also shows all results, even if those are about 2,5M!
http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?srchst=

Thanks,
Liou Yamane

Comments

16 Jun 2008 - 8:43am
Brian Laing
2008

In this case we land users on the search results page with the
standard "no results found" message. At least then users are
alerted that they executed a search, possibly unintentionally.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30281

16 Jun 2008 - 9:22am
SemanticWill
2007

"What to do when a search is executed with no input, thus an empty search
query?"

Does it not seem obvious - with jscript validation - that the Search/Go
button should not be enabled in the first place until a text string has been
entered into the textbox field? Grey the button out, and don't allow submit
action until user input = true

On Mon, Jun 16, 2008 at 5:42 AM, Liou Yamane <liouyamane at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Hi there,
>
> I have encountered the following problem several times at my current job as
> a IxD-er without finding a satisfying solution:
> "What to do when a search is executed with no input, thus an empty search
> query?" Concretely, this means hitting the search button next to an empty
> text field.
>
> I am doubting whether this should show all results, especially if you have
> some filters (think of genre for music for example), or no results at all.
> In the latter case, an extra <return all results> button or something of the
> kind could be used. Somehow, giving all results with an empty box seems
> counter-intuitive.
>
>
> On the other hand, a colleague programmer said the criterium would be how
> big the set of possible results is. In the case of Google, there is no sense
> in showing all results. In a more finite database of a specific website,
> this would have more sense. But now, I am looking at the article search of
> the NY Times, and it also shows all results, even if those are about 2,5M!
> http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?srchst=
>
> Thanks,
> Liou Yamane
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | User Experience Architect
tel +1.617.281.1281 | will at semanticfoundry.com
twitter: https://twitter.com/semanticwill
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

16 Jun 2008 - 10:08am
Dante Murphy
2006

It depends on the context of use, and, as your programmer friend
mentioned, the number of results (or complexity and time used in getting
the results). Many workflow systems use the null search to display all
possible cases, very helpful when you have no idea what you are supposed
to put on your expense report for "ISN Department". Seriously, what the
heck does that MEAN?

I don't like that the button is labeled "search" when I haven't put in a
query string, but otherwise I would never be able to submit an expense
report without this feature. However, for any system where I can be
reasonably expected to know something about what I am searching for,
like Google or iTunes or Netflix, I agree with Wil that the null case
should be disallowed programmatically.

Dante Murphy | Director of User Experience| D I G I T A S H E A L T H
229 South 18th Street | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA 19103 |
USA
Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com
www.digitashealth.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Liou Yamane
Sent: Monday, June 16, 2008 5:42 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Empty search query: what result?

Hi there,

I have encountered the following problem several times at my current job
as a IxD-er without finding a satisfying solution:
"What to do when a search is executed with no input, thus an empty
search query?" Concretely, this means hitting the search button next to
an empty text field.

16 Jun 2008 - 10:11am
Liou Yamane
2008

Hi,

Thanks for your feedback!

The greyed out search button is indeed an elegant solution IF you
choose for not returning results on an empty query. I wonder if there
are any supporters of returning all results....

---
Liou

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30281

16 Jun 2008 - 10:18am
Liou Yamane
2008

@ Dante

Thanks for your answer, I just saw it after I posted mine.
Good remark: he finite set is from a programmer's point of view,
whereas we UX experts should look at the user's expectations.

Liou

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30281

16 Jun 2008 - 11:57pm
msweeny
2006

Good Evening All,

There is something about sending such a request to the server that bothers
me. It is such a waste of processing. I'm no propellerhead but it would seem
to me that there is some sort of validation of entry that could happen and
the customer is sent to a page or an error message pops up that says "Please
give us something to search for."

marianne
msweeny at speakeasy.net

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Liou
Yamane
Sent: Monday, June 16, 2008 2:42 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Empty search query: what result?

Hi there,

I have encountered the following problem several times at my current job as
a IxD-er without finding a satisfying solution:
"What to do when a search is executed with no input, thus an empty search
query?" Concretely, this means hitting the search button next to an empty
text field.

I am doubting whether this should show all results, especially if you have
some filters (think of genre for music for example), or no results at all.
In the latter case, an extra <return all results> button or something of the
kind could be used. Somehow, giving all results with an empty box seems
counter-intuitive.

On the other hand, a colleague programmer said the criterium would be how
big the set of possible results is. In the case of Google, there is no sense
in showing all results. In a more finite database of a specific website,
this would have more sense. But now, I am looking at the article search of
the NY Times, and it also shows all results, even if those are about 2,5M!
http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?srchst=

Thanks,
Liou Yamane

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org Unsubscribe ................
http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe List Guidelines ............
http://www.ixda.org/guidelines List Help ..................
http://www.ixda.org/help

17 Jun 2008 - 5:56am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jun 16, 2008, at 5:42 AM, Liou Yamane wrote:

> I have encountered the following problem several times at my current
> job as a IxD-er without finding a satisfying solution:
> "What to do when a search is executed with no input, thus an empty
> search query?" Concretely, this means hitting the search button next
> to an empty text field.

Hi Liou,

With all due respect, I think you are asking the completely wrong
question.

The instance of blank searches is quite common. In fact, at one major
bank, blank queries were the most popular search term. So, it does
makes sense to know what to do when nothing is searched for.

However, the question you should be asking is: "Why would a user
search for nothing?" What is the sequence of events that would make
this happen? (Let alone be a common occurrence?)

I'm going to bet that very few users ever think to "search for
nothing" to get *everything*. That's a very programmer way of
thinking, but it's unlikely it would actually happen.

Have you observed any users who searched for nothing?

At the bank that I mentioned above, it was because of the design of
the search box. Turns out that it wasn't clear to many users that you
were supposed to enter something before hitting the Search button. The
result was they'd hit the Search button expecting a screen that would
prompt them with something to search for.

Instead, entering an blank search query would give users an error
message that was silly: "The item ' ' is not found. Please choose a
more specific search term." The number of people who entered a second
search term at this point was very, very small.

The designers changed the physical look of the search box, putting in
a distinct border and better prompt. The number of blank searches
dropped to a very small number. In the case of a blank search, the
site now produces a screen that prompts users to take advantage of the
search capability and gives some "best bets" results. Almost every
user continues from that page.

I recommend you find out *why* you have users entering blank search
queries. Once you know that, you'll know what the results should be,
I'm betting.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

16 Jun 2008 - 1:10pm
Michael Trythall
2008

I would argue that you need to have both the error and the disabled button.
While the "disable until input" trick works, and is more helpful for most
users, some users don't have JavaScript enabled, or their setup is odd due
to a disability (think a slimmed down screen reader, or screen which does
not depict colors well). I would think it's a small amount of work to
implement both and would improve the accessibility of your experience.

- Michael Trythall

On Mon, 16 Jun 2008 08:18:03, Liou Yamane <liouyamane at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> @ Dante
>
> Thanks for your answer, I just saw it after I posted mine.
> Good remark: he finite set is from a programmer's point of view,
> whereas we UX experts should look at the user's expectations.
>
>
> Liou
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30281
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
>
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

17 Jun 2008 - 5:19pm
Krzysztof Piwowar
2008

In my opinion the search engines should always show some kind of
results. Why? Because that's the main thing what they should do:
show results (no blank pages or 0 results). If searching word is
stupid, just write a message: we couldn't finde words that are 100%
relevant for your searching word, but these are our suggestion, what
You may looking for... and we give the best results that have
something in common with searching word (semantic, dictionary or
whatever). In case od blank words, I think that you should give the
most popular (hits) in searching results. Of course you should give
possibility your user to change the searching word or searching
options.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30281

Syndicate content Get the feed