Is it possible to have one search box accomplish multiple goals? The obvious answer is yes, because that’s the way we’ve been using Google and Yahoo! for years.
I’m not so sure the multi-goal search box translates so well to normal sites. Heck, even the search engines divided their menu to search different things years go.
I’m skeptical about whether that would work on normal sites, too. Take my ol’ Wi-Fi in Portland site, WifiPDX. For the first couple years there was one way to search: by address. Recently I added a name search, because many people (myself included) were blindly typing non-addresses into the form.
Should I have split up the form? Included two forms?
I decided to use one form, assuming an address and only going to a name if I couldn’t geocode what the user entered. It’s a dead simple approach that returns unfriendly errors like this:
Worse, the solution doesn’t scale well. Say I wanted to add the ability to search for your nearest coffee shop, or bar. Or, what if I wanted to find a nearby hair salon with Wi-Fi that is open on a Sunday morning and has plentiful outlets?
Far-fetched? Sure. This is just a modest Wi-Fi site. Problems of this sort are real. Somebody is facing them and I’m not certain a single search box can fix them.