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This is the requested, uh, feature request from https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/251207/169018

tl;dr; Search should be a first-class citizen on the Stack Exchange network. Putting a bright and shiny search box front and center should help make it so.

I would really (really) love a more prominent search box than the tiny box in the upper right. My completely unfounded and likely wrong gut feeling says that if you make it more obvious that each site is searchable then the tide of poor quality or duplicate questions (on StackOverflow, at least) should recede somewhat.

Something like this:

StackOverflow home page mockup

For non-users, make the search the focus of the home page; I would assume the styling for the "intro" block could be leveraged. I can make a more fleshed-out prototype if requested.

Since I coped that search bar directly from the search results page, it goes without saying that most of the infrastructure is already in place. The major difference is adding some tooling to make it easier to transition the search into a new question.

Please note that this topic has been brought up before, without gaining too much traction - at the very least, I don't see any SO devs weighing in:

Feel free to close this as a dupe of either one of those questions, if so inclined.

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    I'd love to know--maybe a CM can weigh in on this--what pages bring people to asking questions. I like this request in general, but just re: the bit about teaching new users about search, I'm curious of how much of an effect that could have. Do first posts generally go Home Page -> Ask Question? Or Question Page -> Ask Question? Or even Google ("Stack Overflow ask," or equivalent) -> Ask Question? I don't remember how I did it the few times I asked questions before joining the site more seriously. Anyway, I can't think this would hurt, I'm just curious how much it would help, ideally speaking. – Matthew Haugen Mar 15 '15 at 11:37
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    "Search should be a first-class citizen on the Stack Exchange network" No, not until it works properly. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 18 '15 at 18:45
  • This is a dup to my post: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/256614/… Please please implement this change. – JonH Mar 23 '15 at 19:35
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit - It's elastic search hardly anyone can tame the beast. – JonH Mar 23 '15 at 19:38
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You already get search results when you ask a question:

enter image description here

Everyone will see these results, no matter which page they first landed on. I suspect not a lot of "new" question-askers enter the site by the front page; the front page is mainly used by people who primarily answer questions, who are exactly the sort of people you don't need to tell them to search first before asking a question.

This actually provides significantly better results than what you get if you enter the same sentence on the search page. Even after adding "is:question" and sorting by votes doesn't give me the top 2 questions in the list above, which is what we want.

Modifying the query to "external command python" does give me those results, though, and the search box has more options to filter content, but the search performed when you ask a question is a lot better at parsing a sentence and getting useful results, which is probably the type of query most people will enter.

So I'm not sure how useful such a prominent search box will be, it will be seen mostly by experienced users and not new users, and SE already provides a better (less intrusive) way to ensure a search before a question is asked.

  • @Tieson Wants MORE than just the search box you get by asking a question – NoviceSEMetaGeek Mar 15 '15 at 18:43
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    @NoviceSEMetaGeek If you disagree with (parts of) my answer, then feel to say so; if you bring good arguments there's even a fair chance I will even say "Gosh darn, I hadn't thought of that! You're right!", but the cryptic comments like "this does not help" or "Wants MORE than just the search box" aren't really useful for anyone. A useful comment would be something like "This does not help because ...reason..." or "Wants MORE than just the search box, you've missed ..something.." – Martin Tournoij Mar 15 '15 at 18:53
  • If they don't come in by the front door where do they come in? – NoviceSEMetaGeek Mar 15 '15 at 19:07
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    @NoviceSEMetaGeek In my experience, people usually end up on websites through search results, those results link to the most useful page, not he front page. So someone might search for "How do I run an external command in Python" on Google or another search engine, end up SO, finds out the answers don't match what he/she expects, and asks a question. I don't have any metrics for this, but this is what my experience in general is. I don't think this really matters though, since an automatic search on the "ask a question"-page is a more useful thing to do in any scenario IMHO. – Martin Tournoij Mar 15 '15 at 19:14
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    This answer is already faulty because by the time the user ends up in the 'ask a question'-flow it's often already too late. I do however think that the two linked proposals are definitely significantly better as they do not just address the homepage (disclaimer: the second linked proposal (+115) is mine). – David Mulder Mar 18 '15 at 2:32
  • I'm with David on this - it may be too late showing the search results at this point. If we emphasize search right from the get go I think it will help people use it more often. I posted regarding this topic quite some time ago: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/256614/… – JonH Mar 23 '15 at 19:38
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In addition to the placement of the search bar in this mock-up, I like the surrounding text which prompts the searcher to be specific about their search, and encourages them to ask a new question.

On the Genealogy.SE beta, many new users arrive there via a Google search, after they have searched for a surname of interest to them. Because they don't have the rep yet to post comments, their first posts are usually posted as an answer to whatever question they find that way, as if we were a discussion forum. Often there is a seed of a new question in their posts, but since they are so used to surname-based discussion forums, they don't understand that they have related but different questions to ask. We have to nudge them to take the tour and ask a new question.

I understand that with any feature request, the needs of the high-volume sites need to be balanced against the slower ones. But we have a lot of new users coming to SE for the first time. Making the search box more prominent, and having these prompts at the top and bottom, might help them get up to speed faster with the way SE works.

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