Build talk of the week: Design and build a great search experience in your app

Build talk of the week: Design and build a great search experience in your app

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Improving the search experience was an important goal for Windows 8.1, both across the OS and inside of every app. The key to delivering a great search experience for your users is to make it as fast as possible. Once users have decided what to look at, it’s the job of search to get them that content quickly, without any roadblocks. When search delivers on that, users will love the power that you’ve provided to them.

In Windows 8.1, we’ve taken these principles to create an “Everywhere” scope in the Search charm that searches your PC, the cloud, and the web. Over time, we’ll add support for searching inside apps as well. In Windows 8.1, we’ve created a brand new search box control built from the ground up to help you take advantage of these principles, too. By using the features built into the SearchBox, such as history and suggestions, taking advantage of the flexibility of an in-app control, and creating well-designed results pages, you’ll give users a reliable way to get to exactly the content they want at exactly time that they want it. That’s power and efficiency your users will appreciate.

Image showing the Search box listing possible search options

Moving from the Search pane to the Search box control

In Windows 8.1, the Search box control replaces the Search charm as the primary way for interacting with search within a particular app. Moving from the Search contract and Search charm integration to the new Search box control does require some API changes, however, the SearchBox APIs were modeled on the SearchPane APIs, to help ease the migration. Overall it’s simple to migrate your code from leveraging the Search charm to the SearchBox and your users will love how much easier it is to get to content within your app.

Resources for integrating the Search box into your app

I gave a talk at Build/ 2013 to demonstrate the power and flexibility the Search box control provides to developers. There, I showed how to add the control to an app and provided guidance around its use, migrating from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, and effectively responding to window sizes. You can view the talk below:


Download this video to view it in your favorite media player:
High quality MP4 | Lower quality MP4

Additional details around using SearchBox can be found here:

Wrapping up

Search is a powerful tool that helps users get the most out of your app’s content. By leveraging the Search box, you provide users with a fast and efficient way to navigate to the content they want in your app.

--Jon Gordner, Senior Program Manager Lead, Windows

3 Comments
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  • Vipul
    0 Posts

    I'm grateful for search box. The system-wide Search charm did nothing for navigation. For instance, its likelier to search old online article by recollected keywords, rather than looking each followed blogs' each post. It needs strong language usage recommendation guideline though as I do see why other commenters disapprove of it. Suggestions are like shortcuts recommended by app intelligence. Wonderful idea. If I've document on HR management then I might as well have presentation & spreadsheet. Obviously when I search HR management I intend to search only my document or only my spreadsheet.

    Also 2nd para last line:

    'll give users a reliable way to get to exactly

    should be: can free users navigating

  • Necroman
    18 Posts

    Completely agree with - the Search experience in Windows 8 was one of the greatest "Metro" feature. For searching any Search enabled app, you just have to: Open search charm, Enter search string, Click target app. Now I have to Open search, Write app name, Open it, Search in it. I don't even know which apps are now search enabled and which not!

    All we wanted as users to be improved, was the possibility to search files, apps to launch and settings on one place (basically merging the first three search options into one).

    Also as I've heard, the feature for searching apps from charm was removed, because "only 7% of users actually used it" - in other words from 100+ millions of Windows 8 copies sold, 7+ millions users used it? That's pretty nice number if you ask me. The problem of only 7% users using it was clearly in poor discoverability, not that it was useless.

    And about the current Bing search integration - I'm not sure which users actually wanted this. I used the search charm quite a lot for searching in apps, but never for Bing search. I've tried the Bing search now on Windows 8.1 and beside the fact, that it's noticeable slow, the results screen does not contain any "hero result" and it's overall nothing I plan to use any further, probably just like Bing search on my Windows Phone (Czech Republic user).

    The only positive I see, is the possibility to disable the Bing search integration from Search charm, I've done and it's much faster now.

  • sich
    4 Posts

    Its a big, big mistake. Previously, MS taught developers and users that the centralized search charm is cool, unambiguous, consistent way to search. I really liked this, and started believing windows apps would become more consistent and predictable in their UI experience (in contrast to other OSes, where the same buttons like "back" or search may appear in any place in each particular app). Now, every time I expect to find something via search charm inside an app, I get web results instead. And to search inside the app it turns out I have to use another search control inside its UI. You're disappointing me!