Live-search and auto-complete usability

Looks Good Works Well: Distraction or Narrowing: Looking a Little More At Live Search. Great analysis of various models of auto-complete, live search etc. Pretty much matches my thoughts to a tee.

We used auto-complete in NETaccounts for contact names and inventory codes/descriptions. Makes a big difference in those two use-cases as well – when you can’t remember the full details of what you are needing to enter, or there are simply too many to pick from a list. In both cases we set up the auto-complete function to ensure the user was in control, and used timing and checks to ensure that only a reasonable number of items were returned, and to reduce the chance of performance issues.

And it took a lot of time to get the behaviour of the box selection/key nav just right. A lot of the implementations I’ve seen around suffer a similar fate to many of the DHTML/CSS drop-down menu implementations I’ve seen, in that they are very un-user-friendly and non-standard (i.e. they do not conform to typical user interface implementations, and therefore require re-learning).

Hopefully that article will do its part in getting the “gee-whiz” backed up with better usability and usefulness.