The super-mega-expando search box is still annoying:

  • The expansion obeys crazy complicated rules. The box expands when you type in it (but not always: apparently inserting text always expands, removing text never does, and pasting usually does but occasionally doesn't). It contracts when you unfocus it (even if you switch to another application, which is a bug in itself). I dont like the size change in any case, but at least it would be easier to get used to it if the behavior made sense.
  • The box moves to the left, it doesn't just expand. When you're writing in a left-to-right language, this is extremely jarring, because the text moves in the direction that I'm tracking precisely. I have my attention focused on the place where I'm typing, ready to move slowly from left to right, and suddenly I need to jump left. And jump right if I unfocus the search box.
  • There is an animation when the box move. That's useless, my attention is already on that box. That animation is 100% annoying, 0% helpful.

I do like the larger search box, however. I just don't want it to believe it's an accordion.

There are two simple ways of enlarging the search box without all this rigmarole:

Use that empty space on the left!

   search box at rest
   empty space

Move the search box to the left of the menu

(No image because I'd have to actually draw something.)

If the search box was on the left of the menu items instead of being on the right, it could quietly grow on the right. Most of the problems with the super-mega-expando are related to its moving; if the box grew to the right, it could expand without moving.

Please move the search box leftward, either swapping it with the menu or shifting the whole shebang leftward.

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    that "empty space on the left", as you refer to it, is mostly used for giant names like "Rebecca Chernoff" (first thing that came to mind), badges, reputation number, etcetera. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 10:22
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    Typing spaces also doesn't expand the box - strange. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 10:26
  • @Gilles, did you try Alconja's user script?
    – Benjol
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 10:49
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    +0 for using computer drawn circles instead of freehand.
    – JNK
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 10:59
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    I agree with these concerns so much that I'm upvoting in spite of the lack of freehand circles. Also, in the day of giant monitors, I don't think the name "Rebecca Chernoff" is really so long that it takes up the entire "empty space on the left". You want a giant search box, you make your browser window bigger. Simple. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 11:49
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    If the box is going to contract when it loses focus, could it at least expand when it re-receives focus and already has content? Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 11:52
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    @Jeff I took the screenshot without logging in, because the menus were wider. With a name like “Rebecca Chernoff”, the logged-in menu width is about the same as the not-logged-in menu width. Even with “MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM” there'd be some space left. Not that displaying the full name is very important, I know who I am, thank you very much (all that matters is to convey the fact that I'm logged in). Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 12:18
  • @Gilles, yes, but some people need help keeping track of their sock puppets :)
    – Benjol
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 12:29
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    @JeffAtwood, with a 6 digit reputation, 2-digit suggested edit indicator, and a 3-digit flag indicator, I can fit an additional 13 characters. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 15:30
  • @shanethehat, that has issues Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 15:36
  • @rebecca did you factor in flags and suggested edits? Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 16:27
  • @Jeff, fair point, comment edited. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 16:44
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    @Hendrik fixing the space thing
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 23:04
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    Moving the search to the left actually frees space to the right, no problem for Rebecca.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 21:46
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    Here's an example of an aberrant behavior change caused by the ADHD search box. I just noticed that I unconsciously stopped using it. Instead of first searching to see if something has been asked before, what I realize I've been doing is starting a new question every time and using the Question Title box as a real-time search box. If I find it's already been asked, I go there ... if not, I start writing a new (possibly duplicate) question. (This could be partly due to the draw of the real-time search and partly due to the repulsion of the jumpy main search box.) Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 1:21

6 Answers 6


This has been fixed with the new top bar.


Regardless of how annoying you find the current functionality of the search box changes, moving the search box is not the answer.

It is counter-intuitive to have a search box that is not in the top right hand corner. This will change a fundamental layout position that is true across all of the Stack Exchange sites as well as being an aspect of all the major browsers (excluding Chrome, which has no search box): Internet Explorer, Firefox & Safari all have the search box in the top right, which has helped to train users to look up and right when they need to search.

It contracts when you unfocus it (even if you switch to another application, which is a bug in itself).

This is good and correct behaviour. If I switch away from what I'm doing in the search box, I expect whatever auto-complete or expansion or full-screening is going on to return to its default state until I explicitly tell it to take focus again. It is annoying when you have to random-click outside of things to get them to go small when you come back from somewhere else.

There is an animation when the box move. That's useless, my attention is already on that box. That animation is 100% annoying, 0% helpful.

I think not having the animation would be worse. The animation is fast, smooth and allows your eye to track what is happening. No animation would essentially teleport what you have somewhere else, leaving you to realise what happened yourself.

Your first suggestion of detracting some of the space on the left is a better idea, though it would need to be monitored to ensure long user names had enough space, as Jeff commented.

  • 8
    -1 for insisting that the search box must be in the top-hand corner, there are plenty of websites where it's elsewhere (and even more applications, the top right search box seems to be mostly a browser thing). -1 for not reading what I wrote: if I switch to another window (not to another control in the same window) and back to the first window, it's annoying and rude that the window is not in the state I left it. -1 for defending the animation because no, it does not help me track what is happending. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 12:14
  • @Gilles I read and understood that you meant window. I stand by my statement though: If I navigate to a different window, I generally don't want expanded items (or lists, since auto complete disappears when I move window) taking up space when I am not focussed on them any more. As for the animation, I guess we'll just have to disagree, I find the animation helpful. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 12:23
  • @staticbeast As a new user to SE/SO, here's my experience. 1) I'm not "trained" to only expect a search box in the upper right, and in fact had to hunt (briefly) to find it there. Putting it to the left would be just fine; I would also find it there after just as brief a hunt. 2) It doesn't matter how technically smooth the expansion is, it's so fast and unexpected as to be startling and disconcerting. 3) I know most dynamic elements (dropdowns etc) on most pages change state when switching windows but I've never liked it. Things should be EXACTLY the same when I switch back. Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 21:09

I've already proposed your second option. It didn't get much love.

Now I propose this

enter image description here

Use an arrow to indicate and trigger the expansion of the search box.

  • I'd missed your proposal, +1. I don't like this one: the problem is that the search box is moving, not that there aren't enough clues that it's going to move. The behavior is annoying even if you know it's going to happen. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 12:24
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    @Gilles: probably I wasn't clear. The user will have to click the arrow in order to expand the search box. (the arrow points to the direction of the expansion) Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 12:27
  • Ah, ok, then it's a good idea. The one reservation I have is that it needs a keyboard shortcut, and I can't think of a way to make it decently discoverable. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 12:41
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    @Gilles - Hover text on the arrow? Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 12:22

I agree that the lateral movement of the text box while you type is really annoying and counter-intuitive.

Maybe it's because I can't type without often glancing at the keyboard so I don't see the animation while I type the first letter. My eyes are used to return to the exact same location on the screen. And at that point obviously the cursor and my text has moved abruptly to an unpredictable position.

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    It's annoying, counter-intuitive, startling, and disconcerting even without looking down. Since I'm typing into the left edge of the box, which is where my eyes are focused, and it's the left edge of the box that moves, it's just all kinds of disruptive. Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 21:12

Whoever thought it was useful, it's distracting and it has usability issues. I look at the search box, I type while looking at my keyboard, I look up, the box has moved. Annoying. Breaks standard usability & UI standards. Seems like an invention that's not cool.

The recent search box position change when typing is annoying


Another suggestion for improving the usability, is to let the input field grow incrementally as the user types. I too had a WTF moment when I first tried the search bar :)

Is there a jQuery autogrow plugin for text fields?

  • Even this would be better than what's current. At least the change would be gradual (and not unfamiliar). I can't place it right now, but I know there's some UI somewhere that incrementally moved as I typed each character and it felt "smooth" (because my brain quickly recognized the motion was an extension of my actions). Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 22:10

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