Is IE8 search box usable?

Have you ever tried to understand how IE8 behaves when searching? As a non-IE user I am used to going to the top right box, type a word and receive instantly the page with the search results. I work mostly with Mozilla and sometimes with Opera and Chrome (when I’m in a hurry and I need a page to load fast, I admit). So for me, as a user, the entire search process is transparent. I don’t even pay much attention to what search engine each of them uses. I know they are going to return some results and I’m always in a hurry.

So after so many years of NOT using Internet Explore I got myself searching something while testing a website. And, as usual, I type the word I need and in return I receive a page that is not a search result page. And I finally pay attention to what is happening to me.

Search box in multiple browsers

In all browsers the search box is pretty much the same. We’ve been trained to search it in the top right corner, to type the word and press enter. Here’s how it looks.

IE8 search box

IE8 search box

Opera search box

Opera default search

Mozilla search box

Mozilla default search box

Chrome search box

Chrome search box

I expect them all to behave the same. IE8 apparently thinks the other way around, cause if you search for a word thinking that the box will search for it, you’ll receive a screen like this one:

IE8 search result page

How IE8 searches

Next you realize that IE8 doesn’t search by default, you have to make it search by choosing a search engine. All browsers search using Google’s engine, but if you want another one you can choose, no problem here. But if you’re in a hurry and don’t care much about the search engine, you still receive some results. IE8 added an extra step so now in order to receive the results you have to take 2 steps instead of one:choose the engine, then search.

IE search box dropdown
IE8 engines alternatives

How other browsers behave – they let you choose too

Mozilla search box dropdown

Opera search box dropdown

Chrome doesn’t even bother, it won’t display alternatives at all.

What is IE8 thinking?

I wonder why did they choose to follow these steps and if they realize that this is a usability issue – in the search engines war the fact that the user has to bother and take one extra step (in this case 2 instead of 1 is double the effort) might mean some of them won’t bother at all. And if they want to promote Bing or Yahoo, why didn’t they just put these ones as default?