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Off-topic, but can't miss this opportunity:

Please tell us why the Amazon homepage doesn't auto-focus into the search box. I think of this every single time I go to the site.


I loathe online store sites that auto-focus the search box. Worst are the ones that do it on every single page, including item detail pages. I use the space bar to scroll webpages down, especially on my laptop, which has a very small screen so that I almost always have to scroll down to get past header crap and get to the meat of the page. And no mouse, just a mediocre touchpad.

I can maybe accept auto-focusing search on the homepage, but there is no excuse for an item detail page. Even if I got here through a search engine, I probably want to see if this item is the item I wanted before I go searching the rest of your store, and that's going to require scrolling.

Definitely make the search box the first input in the tab-order though. Then if I do want to go straight to search, I can tap tab and then start typing. Otherwise, I usually want to scroll first and nothing is more frustrating than nothing happening when you hit space, only to realize that some tiny obscure search input buried in the corner of the page header that you didn't even realize was there is filled with spaces.

/less ranty

The best of both worlds would be to only auto-focus the search input if the user starts typing letters, and ignore space/arrow keys. We do this on Grooveshark actually.

I like the sites which takes you to the main input field of the page after pressing a single tab. That way, the page still has the focus when the page is loaded and you can easily get to the search box or login id by just pressing a tab.

This is my favorite part of Netflix's UI.

I really wish every website would set their primary search input's tabindex to 1.

You can always disable auto-focus on the client side if you don't like it. I have 'focuscontent' set in Vimperator which will "Focus the content after a page has loaded. [...] When on, it blurs any textbox which often is automatically focused on page load." I'm sure there are similar extensions for your browser of choice.

>You can always disable auto-focus on the client side if you don't like it.

Spoken like a true hacker.

Too often a site discussed on HN is criticized for a design decision that is easily changeable on the client. Anything that is slightly inconvenient for one specific workflow is a "misfeature", ignoring entirely that many people like it that way. A site designer cannot please everyone.

Most non-hackers do not even notice this stuff. Go find a normal person and ask them to list the sites they visit and whether or not they auto-focus the search box. They do not notice. We are the weird ones.

If it annoys you, change it. You have the power. Most of the time what you want can be accomplished with a simple extension, no coding required.

If not, you can write your own extension, or write a script for an extension, or "use" browsers like uzbl and luakit, or write your own browser. Then you can put your solution on the web, so other people can benefit.

I can't disagree more. Most people don't even know they can use space bar to scroll down, but it ain't no reason to break this behavior. I have seen sites breaking double clicks in edit fields or even using click to edit on texts, like trello, it is plain wrong.

A little Prototype function for this; https://gist.github.com/peterjaap/5128851

Please DO NOT listen to this guy. This auto-focus to the search box misfeature absolutely ruins any page viewing navigation.

For people who use up/down arrow or pgup/pgdown keys to scroll down the page (which is pretty much all laptop users), this focus stealing misfeature would frustrate them to no end.

I won't go back to any site that does this.

More importantly it completely breaks the page for a page-reading program, meaning the site becomes significantly less accessible to disabled users. In fact the guide to accessible website design (don't remember where to find it now) specifically says NOT to autofocus to some "random" or arbitrary place on the page.

Please DO NOT listen to this guy.

Steady on, soldier. I just asked a question.

Sorry. It's just a lot of websites have gone that route and it's really annoying. I didn't want Amazon to cave in to the seeming demand from users and wanted to present another view.

Judging from the up-votes it seems this resonates with a lot of people.

Not to mention any sort of single-key navigation. What is important though is that TAB should work and focus the important fields in the correct order.

I disagree completely. The fact that Amazon does not auto-focus to the search box annoys me greatly, since 99% of the time I find the items I'm looking for via search. Compared to Google, Youtube, etc. Amazon feels clunky.

Then why don't you just search via Google? "site:amazon.com bank of bob" or even most of the time you can just add the word amazon to your search query "amazon bank of bob" and I get exactly what I'm searching for.

To me you haven't made any case at all why others should have to suffer so you can have auto-focus on Amazon when your needs are already met elsewhere.

Things like this are why I have DuckDuckGo as my browser's default search engine.

"!amazon thingamabob" (or just "!a thingamabob").

Way more convenient than going to the homepage and worrying about search auto-focus.

My favorite thing about DDG is that at this point there are so many bang syntaxes defined that if I don't know the syntax for something, I can often just guess and half the time I get it right!

Firefox keyword search is more direct, though you have to define them yourself. See my comment above.

Try keyword search on Firefox:

"a foo" to search on amazon, "g foo" google, "i foo" imdb, "m foo" google maps, "w foo" wikipedia, "u foo" urbandictionary, etc... I have more but they are not public sites.

Chrome automatically recognizes searches on sites, so that you can just type "ama[TAB]" in de URL bar, and it will give you a site-specific search straight in the URL bar (provided that "ama" auto-completes to "amazon.com" for you, naturally). This works for basically every site you've ever visited that has search functionality. It's pretty decent.

That's interesting, though I only care about a few sites, and prefer the brevity of the ff keywords.

Sounds like the two could complement each other, like aliases and completion in a shell.

You can rename the search engine abbreviations as you like.

I have "w" for wikipedia, "y" for youtube, "gm" for google maps, etc...

This is THE feature of Chrome that I use constantly every day. It saves 5-10 seconds on each search you do every day. It adds up.

Is it still a misfeature on pages that fit on one screen, e.g. google.com, or (my own company's) mixrank.com?

Isn't a better strategy to optimize for the common use-case?

I think it makes sense on Google where that's all you're going to do (more than just a common use case, it's almost the ONLY use case, probably like five 9s).

I don't think it makes sense on Amazon. A typical amazon user may browse around and explore outside of search. Maybe most of the time they will search, but there are no doubt other use cases like using the fancy nav. It's even possible that they want to encourage user's the browse around a bit instead of finding what they want and leaving right away.

Plausibly it tests out that people who expect the arrow keys / space to scroll the page get more annoyed by having to click out of a search box than people who want to search right away get annoyed by having to click into a search box.

It seems like it would be easy to capture 'space' and arrows keys in the textfield and do the right thing. Anyone seen someone do that?

You wouldn't want to capture the space key because you'll need that in search queries but the arrow keys sound like an idea for those interested in accommodating both cases.

You pretty much never want a space at the start of your search query though, so you could DTRT based on whether there's preceding text there or not.

Good point but I think it's now coming to a point where confusion might come into play. It's a balance between inconveniencing someone with auto focus and confusing someone else.

Arrow keys and page down sound like "activate autocomplete" to me.

Before you type something? That seems odd.

If I had to guess it would be that it doesn't test as well. Similarly to a physical store wanting you to browse, I can imagine Amazon wants you to look at the suggested items. If you wanted to search you will still search, but you might also get distracted and purchase something you were interested in.

That's what I came up with too. But on thinking deeper, it doesn't seem to hold true.

The kind of user who likes to browse will probably browse using a mouse, not a keyboard like us nerds. So the position of the cursor doesn't matter to them.

I hardly ever go to Amazon and not directly search for something (except maybe during Black Friday deals when I just click on the banner). I'd bet Amazon loses money by making me do an extra mouse click into the search box every time.

Unless there's a sizeable proportion of users who go to the homepage and scroll using the keyboard, I don't get it.

I'd love to see the data, but knowing Amazon they have both extensively tested it and will not release the findings. Anecdotally I have never not purchased something because I had to set the cursor focus and I have purchased something I saw on the home page.

Also, if you're a nerd, just search right in the browser. If I want to search Amazon I never actually go Amazon first I just type "a", hit tab and then my search terms. Chrome is smart enough to do the rest and I get right to the SERP on Amazon.

Seeing a blinking cursor and a potentially-highlighted search box (not for me on Chrome at least) might distract a portion of those users.

edit: Mouse movement = tracking content with eyes? http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5333496

You've gone to Amazon, had to do an extra click, and decided not to buy because of that?

Remove the question mark - you've succinctly described funnel optimization.

I would have never thought so, but Amazon's own data has shown that seemingly trivial things like increasing page load times by 100 ms reduces sales by a non-negligible %.

Why do you think they obsess over dropdown menus?

We're all arguing over data we don't have, but if they have that kind of information I think they have also considered search box focus. Seeing that they don't have it, one can draw the conclusion that for their site it was not profitable.

One of my favorite features of Chrome is that if you start to type "amazon.com" in the URL bar, and then hit Tab when it autocompletes, it switches the URL bar to an amazon.com search bar. I don't think I've typed anything in the actual search field of amazon.com in years.

This also works with the space bar, as well as the tab key. I find pressing the space key to be a bit more fluid when I already know what I intend on typing next.

I think any forcible redirection of focus makes your page inaccessible to users with screen readers. Just setting explicit tabindex on tags really screws things up; its best for accessibility to let the natural tab order rule. Many sites actually make the first tabbable element a "skip link" that jumps past the page's header and left nav content and jumps to the first <h1>.

So this topic made me curious, were does the first tab in the tab chain on Amazon go? I loaded the page in firefox, hit tab, and saw the first tab was http://amazon.com/access

Ok, this is an interesting design choice. That access link goes to a page with minimal styling, probably optimized for screen readers.

Now I'm really curious, and I pop open NVDA to give the page a listen. After the page title was read, the access link was read, which was very helpful: "A different version of this web site containing similar content optimized for screen readers and mobile devices may be found at the web address: www.amazon.com/access". It would have been best if Amazon did the work to make their default site screen reader accessible, but this is a nice alternative to having no accessibility at all.

Amazon needs to do some html/css/script minification on their homepage! Oh, nevermind, they gzipped it. :)

This has always bugged me. As a result, I decided to try my hand at a Chrome extension to fix it. If it's any interest to you, get it here https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/amazon-search-auto....

It's my first extension, so be gentle if it has issues.

I don't want this as much as making / jump to the search box. I wish everything did this (I think only gmail and vim do). Although, that might interfere with Firefox (at one point it had an option to open the find dropdown when you type /).

Facebook does too, at least if you have Graph Search enabled.

Should be the first [tab] instead.

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