Question: Help us refine the search interface at

warren asked on October 29, 2018 22:21
88 | 3 answers | #17425

Hi, we're starting a series of user interface design projects (on this page, check them out!), and one of them that's upcoming is for our "advanced search" pages. A LOT of work during the past summer's Rails Girls Summer of Code (#rgsoc) went into overhauling our search code, and we are in a great position to now begin working on lots of detailed refinements on top of that foundation.

What kind of feedback?

Here's an example: when I visit and enter something and press enter, I feel like it's not responding. Maybe I expect to see a spinner or some feedback that my search has "begun":

image description

So, what I want to note is:

  1. what I saw that I felt could be better (an observation)
  2. the goal I want to achieve (feedback that the site is doing something)
  3. an idea for improvement (a spinner icon!)

Using this framework, what are some observations and suggestions for how we can improve our search page at ?

Thank you for helping to make a better place!


@milaaraujo @stefannibrasil i'm kicking this off to collect input on the search system, as there are likely many many small tweaks and adjustments we could make. As people chime in here, we can copy them over into a planning issue or generally into issues on the plots2 repository!

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3 Answers

Here's another! I think once you enter a search term and search, I expect to be able to further refine the search by adding or removing words, especially in Boolean mode. But the search term no longer appears in the search box:


I think we could ensure the box remains filled, but also be sure it doesn't show the autocompletion, as that'd be redundant.

This could be a good reason to have the in-page search (not the navbar) retain its own search input -- which doesn't have autocompletion, i guess? Or should it?

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I was recently looking for a specific research note and knew the exact title: Water Quality Testing At Turkey Creek. I was unable to reach the page by using the page's search function.

Issues I've identified

  • As I started typing in the title, nothing happened. Eventually a list of users were auto-suggested, though that list had nothing to do with the article I was looking for.


  • When I clicked on the magnifying glass to initiate the search, I received 71 pages of search results. Nothing on the first page was the note I needed. I selected Boolean search, which narrowed to four results, none of which were the one I needed. I switched to Natural search and the results matched the Boolean search.


  • Seeing a related research note in the search results, I clicked that link, hoping I would be able to find my research note by seeing what tags they would share. I clicked on the "turkey-creek" tag and expected to be shown a search of notes with that tag. Instead, I had to click again on "notes" to initiate the search.

Goals I'd like us to address

I'd like to figure out how to make sure that the matching research note comes up as an autocomplete suggestion, or at least in the first page of search results.

Ideas I've had

It seems intuitive that pressing return after typing in the Search bar would initiate the search (not having to manually click the magnifying glass), and that clicking on Tags would automatically initiate a search that could later be refined (instead of having to choose your refinements before starting the search)

Just a follow-up on this for when we take it on -- the full set of results (the typeahead dropdown results only show a subset) for Water Quality Testing At Turkey Creek was this:

For reference, this is the actual post:

The query was:

Not even this query returns it -- odd!

This one is a bit mysterious, to be honest...

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And just to break out Joe's observation that: I clicked on the "turkey-creek" tag and expected to be shown a search of notes with that tag. Instead, I had to click again on "notes" to initiate the search.


This isn't strictly search, but it's worth noting -- @joyofsoy what should we display in this space? What if we showed the # of contributors like :


@warren I'm not sure if people would understand what the numbers mean. Is it something we could display in a popup if you hover over?

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