Last week I began a series of discussions on the Site Search and the User Experience LinkedIn group that focused on the site search box.  I asked questions of the group to identify some best practices for where to place the site search box, the size of the search box and what if any search box default help text should be used.  Based on the lack of responses, it appears that the search box is an area of site usability that is seriously lacking any clear direction or consensus.

In an effort to bring some clarity on the subject I decided to conduct a review of the top 50 retailers on the IR 500.  My analysis included capturing the size of the overall search box area, the size of the input field, location on page, default help text, and what the submit button looked like.  I figured that the top 50 internet retailers would certainly have sought the advice of the world’s best site designers and usability experts. I assumed most would have done some usability testing and determined the optimal search box experience.  As a result of all this effort, I expected to find a fair amount of consistency in how the site search box was implemented.

My analysis however showed little consensus in any of these areas.  About the only thing that I could be certain of is that the site search box should be located in the site header.  The data however is interesting and worthy of review.  Today, I’ll start with the location of the site search box.  For simplicity, I only evaluated if the box was located on the left, center or right side of the header.  Here’s what I found:

16% Left (8 retailers)
30% Center (15 retailers)
54% Right (27 retailers)

So, the right side wins with slightly better than 50%.  As I looked at the distribution of the placements among the top 50, it appeared fairly mixed.  For instance, among the top 10, three had left placements, three right and four were in the center. Shocking, I know.

Here’s a small sample of the site headers from among the top internet retailers to provide you with a closer look of where their site search box is located.











In our next blog post I’ll reveal what the analysis shows about the size of the site search box.

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