H3. Difficulty tracking searches

Situation Definition:

A situation that arises from difficulty monitoring the progression of search terms used in a series of past searches in a DL.

Factor(s) Leading to the Situation:

    • Inadequate features/functions:

Guideline or Design Recommendation:

    1. Make search terms from previous queries available on request for reuse and combination
    2. Enable refining of the most recent query
    3. Explain how to monitor progressions of previously used search terms

Rationale and Objective:

For users who tend to use the same search terms more than once, retaining the search history can save time on subsequent searches. Lists of past

and keyword history help users to find a relevant term or phrase by trying to predict it. Display recently visited links/URLs can be useful for monitoring searches, too.

Techniques and Methods:

1.1. Save search terms used in a session
1.2. Provide search history features to allow users to display their previous queries upon request
2.1. Keep the most recent query in the search box
2.2. Add a “clear search” feature next to the search box
3.1. Provide help tips and explanation for how to monitor the progression of search terms

Recommended Features:

1.1. Search terms saving feature (See example 1.1)
1.2. Search history feature that retains search terms for a single session (See example 1.2)
2.1. Pre-populated search box (See example 2.1)
2.2. Clear search feature (See example 2.2)
3.1. Help tips and instruction (See example 3.1)


1.1. Search terms saving feature: Good example

Previous search terms in the search box (Europeana, 2018)

Search box with added search terms ("caesar", "rome") saved to left of input area

1.2. Search history: How to example

Smithsonian Institution provides a search history feature.

Search history with list of previous search terms with number of records retrieved

2.1. Pre-populate search box: Good example

Artstor keeps the recent search term in the search box.

Search results interface with previous search term ("water") still present in search box

2.2. Clear search feature: Good example

Google provides a “Clear search” button with the ARIA-label applied.

Google interface with X button next to input field to clear search terms. Aria label applied (aria-label="Clear")

3.1. Help tips and instruction: Good design

Library of Congress provides a Help page for search history so that users can monitor previous search terms.

Search History Elements page with explanations for Search, Search Type, Results, and Action as well as an example of Search History that includes links on details such as date and format

Related Resources:

    1. Europeana. (2018). Search. Retrieved from https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/search?q=rabbit&qf%5B%5D=england
    2. Neilson, J. (2004). Guidelines for Visualizing Links. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/guidelines-for-visualizing-links/
    3. Smithsonian Institution. (2018). Search history. Retrieved from http://collections.si.edu/search/history.htm
    4. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 1.3 Adaptable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#adaptable
    5. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.2 Predictable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#predictable
    6. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.3 Input assistance. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#input-assistance

See Also:

Help-seeking Situations > H. Difficulty constructing or refining searches