Do you ever find that you are typing in the wrong box when you’re trying to use the site search? Many sites are so eager for people to subscribe to their newsletter or RSS feed that the text box asking for their email address is more prominent than their site search.
People that are search focused will visually scan the page looking for the site search box. This is often easier to do than scanning the text and trying to navigate the site. I’ll often find that I’ll pick the wrong box and start typing my search term where an email address is expected.
This is more an inconvenience than anything. I haven’t seen any data on whether or not this has an impact on conversion rates. Tamar Weinberg recently blogged about this with some excellent examples. If you have a subscribe box on your site it would be fairly easy to estimate how much of a problem this is by examining how many incorrectly formed email address are passed through the subscribe form.
My general advice on this is:
- Your search box should be near the top of your page and above any other text boxes.
- If you’re going to have non search text boxes on your site then add plenty of cues as to the purpose of the box.
A nice example of the latter is on our customer’s site, Blair. The subscribe text box has three cues.
- An image of an envelope above the box
- The text “Enter E-mail Address” in the text box (which is cleared once the focus goes on the box)
- An example email below the box.
All of these reduce the chance that you would mistake that for a search box.
Another tactic I often see is placing text inside the search box, inviting you to search. You can see an example of this on the Cell Phone Shop:
I’m in two minds about whether or not this is a good thing to do. When you do this you’ll almost always see the text in that box appear in the list of popular search terms. But it is really no different than people doing empty searches (in either case you should make sure the page shows something sensible). I’d be interested in your thoughts as to whether this is a good idea or not.