Despite being someone who uses the web daily (and a regular reader of The Age) I find myself getting caught-out by the design of their site search every time. Here’s how I’d tweak the design to improve it’s usability in 5 minutes.

The Age website search field causes me to pause for a second every time I use it. It’s not a huge issue and the system works perfectly satisfactorily (the search results could do with some fine-tuning, but that’s another story) but for some reason the design of the search text-entry field defies convention and bears more of a resemblance to a ‘raised’ drop-down style form component than the usual ‘recessed’ text field. This, coupled with the fact that the button is joined to the text field, doesn’t look like any other buttons across the site and is all placed below the main navigation always seems to catch me out and make me have to think for a second before proceeding.

Instead, I’d suggest The Age redesign their search field to look ‘recessed’, in alignment with the current convention for text fields. Leaving the standard formatting would be preferred, but if they really had to override this with an image, at least make it look similar and not like form elements with different functionality. In addition I’d recommend they move the button a little further to the right so that it does not appear to be a single element.

The existing Age search field is raised, and bears more of a resemblance to a drop-down style form component than the usual recessed text field.

Interestingly, this approach has been taken for the search results page, making it much more usable (I’d probably drop the ‘Search here…’ text though, as the label to the left makes it somewhat redundant):

Search fields within the search results pages are left un-styled and are much more usable as a result.

Finally, I’d move the search field to the top-right of the page in a similar fashion to The Guardian site, again following common convention and making it much easier to find.