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In the comments on a recent post, Borek brings up an interesting point. Given the rapid expansion of Stack Exchange sites and the inevitable overlap of subject matter, can we make a more consistent approach to intra-site and inter-site searches?

For example, when I search on Stack Overflow, I get what appears to be results from a custom search function:

enter image description here

This gives me results specifically from Stack Overflow and presents them in a UI consistent with Stack Overflow. (Now, as a side note, I often notice that I get better search results by clicking "Ask Question" and entering a question title. I don't know if that's because they use different functionality or if my titles are just better than my search terms, but that's another discussion.)

If I want to search all sites, I go to the main Stack Exchange site and search there:

enter image description here

This gives me a raw set of Google results with the sites narrowed down to Stack Exchange sites.

Why the discrepancy?

  • Does the Stack Overflow search also use Google and just dress up the results better?
  • Has the Stack Exchange search just not gotten as much UI love?

What I propose is a consistent search experience across the Stack Exchange engines/sites. Keep the search box and its current functionality, but when focusing the search box I would suggest fading in a small set of options just beneath it. Options such as:

  • Search Just This Site
  • Search All Stack Exchange Sites
  • Search The Web

Keep it simple, of course. We don't need too many options. But something as easy as a little list of radio buttons (defaulting to "Search Just This Site") would at least give a quick option to find more information that happens to be on other Stack Exchange sites.

Indeed, new users who stumble across Stack Overflow via their own Googling endeavors may not even realize that there are more sites like it with useful information. This could help them discover those sites.

share|improve this question
Related issue, just from the other side of the workflow, is that when I want to ask a question, I need to do quite a bit of research to find out on which site to ask. Sure, moderators can move the question when it's not posted on a proper site but it just leaves bad taste in the mouth. As you have global search, there should be a global question form. (Well, I even think that it's unnecessary to have a whole myriad of SE sites in the first place but OK, that's how it is.) – Borek Dec 29 '11 at 15:33
@Borek: That sounds like a good suggestion that should be its own Meta question, actually. (Which I'm tempted to post myself, but I feel like I'm stealing your ideas.) I'm picturing a global question page on the Stack Exchange main site which has a radio button list to choose a site (and results of related questions from that site), as well as an options on site-specific question pages to check other sites and potentially post there instead (not cross-post, of course). – David Dec 29 '11 at 15:54
David, feel free to post that new suggestion, I'll vote it up :) – Borek Dec 29 '11 at 16:13
@Borek: Ask and ye shall receive: – David Dec 29 '11 at 16:48

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