‘Auto suggest’ was our attempt to second guess the answer a user wants based on the first few letters they type into a GOV.UK search box. We've had several people ask why we’ve removed the ‘auto suggest’ feature from GOV.UK recently, so we thought we'd give you a quick answer.
In short: it’s gone because it wasn’t good enough - yet.
In testing, confident users really liked it. But less confident users found our ‘get-you-straight-to-the-answer’ implementation confusing. If the information they were looking for didn’t appear as a ‘suggested answer’, they’d assume we didn't have it and give up, rather than clicking the search button to get a more traditional list of results.
Plenty of sites auto suggest search queries as you type in a search box; far fewer try to get you straight to the answer, as we were endeavouring. But we don't want to implement that if we think it's going to confuse users who aren't confident with search anyway.
If in doubt, we prioritise the needs of those users who need help the most, so we've switched off 'auto suggest' for now. We still suspect there is solution out there that will make search-based navigation clearer, simpler and faster for everyone, and we’ll be returning to this after GOV.UK is released on 17 October.
We’d love to know which sites you think do ‘auto suggest’ best - leave a comment or tweet @gdsteam.