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When examining the results of a Web search, people need to know what they searched for so they can make sense of the results. But of course they know what they searched for because they specified the search criteria only moments ago, before they hit the Search button. Yeah, sure!
Unfortunately, people aren't perfect:
When they have a lot on their minds-as they often do when surfing the Web-they can forget what they just asked for.
If they plan to search for something five different ways, they can lose track of which one they just did.
They can mistype a search term without realize it. Web designers know this because they are people: They suffer from the same lapses as anyone else. But if they know this about people, why do so many websites display search results without showing the criteria that produced them?
For example, the job-hunting service Dice.com indicates only how many jobs it found matching "your query," without reminding you what the query was (Figure 5.39). Dice's search function tends to return a wide variety of job types, so users may want to double-check the search criteria they gave it. At the very least, they will often want to refine the search to cut out unrelated jobs. Unfortunately, neither of these is easy to do because the search criteria aren't shown.
Erlbaum.com commits the same blooper on its Search results page (Figure 5.40). It says, "1 books found for your search criteria ..., " but it doesn't show what the search criteria were.
People are not computers. They often won't remember what they asked for and they mistype things. Website search functions therefore need to show them what search criterion they gave to get the results they are looking at (Brinck, Gergle, and Wood, 2001). Feldenkrais.com and VitaminShoppe.com show that it can be done (Figure 5.41).
Even better is to display the search terms in editable form so users can modify them on the results page to refine their search or try a different one. The search facility on Stanford University's website does this (Figure 5.42), although it may be hard to see at first glance because the results page is somewhat cluttered.
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