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Lightning Search

Great search experiences are the ones where the user searches the least. Global search in Salesforce is the most efficient path for customers to find data in Salesforce and is the most-used feature on our platform.


Lead UX Designer


UX Design, UI Design, Moderated Usability Testing, Design System Documentation


4 Teams, 3 Product Managers, 24 Engineers, 1 Designer, .5 User Researchers, 2 Doc Writers

Project Overview

I joined the Search team about 6 months before we kicked off the design of Lightning, our new core CRM product. This was just after the launch of Salesforce1, our core mobile application. We wanted to take the best patterns from both S1 and Classic and build upon them make search more efficient, intelligent and helpful. At the same time, we had our user researcher move on to new opportunities, and our other designer on Search changed roles to work on the app's architecture.

With the limited resources available to the team, I worked with Product Management on executing on the highest priority items each release, conducted concept validation & moderated usability testing, facilitated cross-functional design studios and partnered with product teams to fill dependencies for the specific needs of their users.

Problem Statement

Search in Salesforce Classic is fast, but it is inconsistent with the look and feel of search on Salesforce Mobile and it doesn't use powerful features like typeahead or flexible results layouts. These issues make it hard to find results outside of your initial result set. These gaps make finding the right result more work with higher variation across products.


Search Principles

Understand my context, who I am, and what's relevant to how I work. Predict the infomation I need and help me search less while still finding everything I need to be successful.
Allow me to work quickly and find information in an experience optmized for my workflow. Reduce the time to complete tasks in a clear and friendly UI.
Allow me to do more. Let me stay in a single environment and find the results that I need from any data source in a seamless federated experience.

Personas & Use Cases


Sales Cloud Deal Closer


Logging calls, email and notes, entering new Leads & Opportunities, updating existing Accounts, Opportunities & Contacts.

Salesforce Strengths

Staying organized, ease of use

Working Style

With customers ~60%, Remote ~40%

As a Deal Closer, I need to quickly find my Accounts, Contacts, Files and Opportunities, so that I can prep for meetings, update records and log calls, email and notes.

Learn more about Sales Cloud personas on Trailhead.


Service Cloud Case Solver


Troubleshooting customer issues, updating existing customer records, logging activities

Education Level

~65% college degree or some college, 22% graduate degree or some graduate school

Work Experience

42% 10+ years, 21% 6-10 years, 21% 3-5 years, 16% 0-2 years

As a Case Solver, I need to find Cases, Articles and Files so that I can provide direct support to customers and solve escalated Cases.

Learn more about Service Cloud personas on Trailhead.

Product Designs & Interactions

Default State

Search is available globally throughout the app, prominently displayed in the header.


Placeholder Text

Placeholder text is contextual and gives the users hints about how to use search most effectively. It can be used for Community branding, new feature discovery and to educate a user about what they can search. For example, when an Admin is using Setup, the placeholder text reads "Search Setup", or, when a user is on a feed or list of information, the placeholder reads "Search this list...".


Recent Browsing History

When search is focused, the user finds records and apps from their recent browsing history. Recent items are chosen about a quarter of the time when the user searches.


Instant Results

When a user is looking for a record outside of their recent history, instant results from the entities they use most frequently are returned from the server, making results deflection increase to about half of searches.


Relevant Results

Customers can have up to 2,000 entities that are searchable. To optimize for the most relevant results we focus on the user's most frequently used record types and present them in an intelligent order. When you search for "Elaine", you'll see people at the top of your results, and when you search for "Vandelay Industries", you'll find companies.


Performant Design

Our clickrank for our most used record types is high, and our ranking for entity prediction is always learning and improving so, to find the right result, most users don't even have to scroll. To ensure that the experience is performant, we load the first three object's results first so that you find the most relevant results in under a second, then load more if you need to scroll.


Powerful Features

Sometimes, searches can return a lot of information. For global companies, a search for a company name might return hundreds of results. And if you're looking for a file and can't remember many details - good luck. That's why we launched search filters, which allow users to filter on the most important metadata about that record type.


Rich Layouts

Structured data tends to be easier to browse using a table, but unstructured data has more flexibility to be differentiated. We use snippets of the article and highlighting to display the most relevant information in a concise layout and allow users to vote on the quality of an article, which lets colleagues help each other by providing valuable feedback about the result.


Empty Results

No results aren't always a bad thing - it can be a signal to create a new opportunity, draft a new article, or create a contact for your new point of contact at an account. Using illustration and helpful tips helps to make the experience more fun and enjoyable.