Search Bar Design Best Practices and Many Examples [for Inspiration]
Including examples with HTML/CSS so you can review the magic source code
The search bar is one of the most important elements of a website or an app. It serves to connect users with your website by allowing them to communicate with it in the form of searching keywords and receiving accurate and useful information in return. In fact, a well-designed search bar can significantly improve the user experience and ultimately the conversion rates. This is why for this blog post, we will talk about search bar design best practices with a huge hand-picked collection of inspirational examples for search bar behaviors, UI animations, and, for the tech-savvy readers, a selection of examples with HTML/CSS so you can review the magic source code.
Table of Contents
At first glance, any search bar consists of an input field and a button. However, the way you design those two UI elements can make a significant impact on the user experience. So here’s what to consider when you start designing yours.
1. Always Include an Input Field and a Button
These two elements aren’t negotiable, so you need to get creative without sacrificing either of them. Usually, these elements are placed horizontally.
- The Input Field: You can take some creative liberties with round corners, background contrast, shading, colors, and animations. However, make sure that your input field is always a text input box with a height consistent with the height of one line of text.
- The Button: Whether is just a button with the label “Search” or a button with a magnifying glass icon, this is a visual cue for your users to submit their query.
The magnifying glass icon is universal for search functionality. Most UI designers prefer to use it in order to make products more intuitive, as anything else might confuse the users.
In fact, the magnifying glass icon is so recognizable, that you can hide the input field behind it and make it an expandable element when the user clicks on it.
This method will save you space and will make your page look cleaner. Just make sure it’s placed strategically and stands out enough for users to find it.
2. Make Your Search Easy to Find and Accessible
There are two things that users need to be able to find the moment they land on your website or open your app: the navigation menu and the search bar. Avoid hiding your search behind a menu option, for example, in your hamburger menu.
Use the power of habit and the mental model established by repetitive usage, to your advantage. For example, on a desktop, the first place users will look for the search bar will be at the top right corner. On mobile, they will look for it at the top, between your logo and the hamburger menu.
In terms of accessibility, the search bar needs to be as accessible as your navigation. The easiest way to do that is to make it sticky.
3. Include Some Placeholder Text
Allow users to know what they can search on your website. This is especially useful when they can search for different items. You can list some simple queries such as summer shoes, beach bags, etc.
In terms of design, your placeholder text should be a lighter shade compared to the typed query but still legible enough with good contrast. It should also disappear when the user clicks on the input field, allowing them to focus on typing their query.
4. Consider Adding Suggestions and Autocomplete
The autocomplete feature helps users a lot by providing them with suggestions in a menu below the search box. Make sure the suggestions are customized to reflect your website or app’s specific content, so your users would get accurate predictions.
A good tip for autocomplete is to bold the information put in by your users in the auto-suggestions menu. This will show all suggestions included in the query and will highlight the differences.
5. Place The Advanced Options in a Hidden Menu
If you have a data-heavy website, it’s necessary to include options for advanced search. However, it’s best to hide these filters and categories in a hidden menu. On one hand, you keep the design clean, on the other, your non-tech-savvy users won’t be overwhelmed and confused by a complicated search bar that should include only two UI elements.
For example, IMDb offers a clean minimalistic search bar with a simple input field and a search icon. On its left, however, the element offers a dropdown menu with categories such as “All”, “Titles”, “TV Episodes”, “Celebs”, “Companies”, “Keywords”, and “Advanced Search”.
Inspirational Search Bar Design Examples
With the best practices in our pockets, let’s continue with some conceptual search bar design and functionality examples for different purposes: booking, help centers, stocks, education portals, job hunt portals, and others.
Search behavior of a car rental service by Diana Palavandishvili for Fintory.
Stocklabs navigation/search behavior exploration by Kevin Dukkon for Fintory.
Search bar and search behavior design by Ildiko Gaspar.
This dynamic search bar displays anything you are looking for. Concept and design by Markus Gavrilov.
UI interaction and search bar design by Yeasin Arafat for Halal Lab.
Help center search behavior by Nathalie Tran.
Applications filter bar for Lexyz, a web portal that offers several teaching applications for the French National Education System using Augmented Reality. UI/UX design by Justine Lebegue.
Search Bar UI Animation Examples
For this section, we’ll focus on the interactions with a couple of creative UI animations for search bars to draw inspiration from.
Vector Drawing turned into an animation by Anton Valihura.
Cute and fun search bar interaction with auto-suggestions by Ciao.
Search bar transition between clicking the search icon and the expanding input field by Rodetyo Prast.
Simple and clean search bar transition and input animation by Aaron Iker.
Glowing search bar interaction made with After Effects by Brenden Fletcher.
Simple outline vector animation for search bar transition by Shane Buchan.
Adobe XD interactive navigation menu with Search by Vivek Clinton M.
Search Bar Design Inspiration with HTML/CSS
Now to the best part. It’s one thing to enjoy a good design, but quite another to be able to review to code and understand how the developer managed to do it so smoothly. So let’s get into the juicy code right away.
Search Bar HTML CSS Templates by FX Ground
FX Ground is a small library for animated web elements for inspiration and the option to review the source code for each element.
The library offers The ReSearchers category with ten different animated search bars to choose from. Click each interactive example to enjoy the animation.
You can download and review the source code for the entire gallery on the following page.Visit FX Ground
Search Bar HTML/CSS from Codepen
Codepen is a public open-source community and library for developers to test code, share their creations, or use the platform to build portfolios. Here are some amazing search bar designs where you can review the source code.
Search Input Context Animation
by Riccardo Zanutta
- Context animation
- Telegram App-like search loading effect
Transparent Frost Glass Search
by Jon Welsh
- Transparent design
Red Search Bar UI Animation
by Jove Angelevski
- Button-triggered animation
- Cool red glowing effect
CSS only Slide Out Search
- Button-triggered animation
- Reveals a search bar on hover
Minimal Green Search Bar Animtion
by Lil Skywalkr
- Button-triggered animation
CSS Effect for Search Input
by Mihael Tomic
- Hover animation
Shaky Search Box
- Shaky hover animation
- 3D effect
Skeuomorphic Search Input
by Jonas Badalic
- Can’t be pizza
- 3D effect
To Sum Up
The search bar is a crucial element for any content-heavy website as it’s the last option (and sometimes the first) for users to find a specific item they’re looking for. Even if you haven’t organized your content properly, an accurate well-designed, and fully-functioning search bar can save the day by providing navigation for users. Although this mostly relies on a well-written back end, the search bar design is equally important as it should be clearly visible, quickly recognizable, and convenient to use.
Hopefully, the search bar design best practices and examples inspired you to try some of the ideas for improving the user experience of your application or website.
In the meantime, why not get more insights and inspiration by visiting the related UI/UX design articles: