How to create a custom search form in WordPress

You can display a search form anywhere on a WordPress site by including <?php get_search_form(); ?> in the template. If your theme contains searchform.php, WordPress will display the contents of the file. If the theme does not contain searchform.php, WordPress will default to the built-in search form instead.

The built-in search is fine if you just want a basic form. But what if you want to, say, use an image for the submit button, or change the placeholder text?

I frequently come across themes where the developer has hacked the built-in form to make custom changes rather than using searchform.php. When I first started developing WordPress themes that’s how I did it too. But it’s a rookie mistake.

The problem is, when you hack the built-in search form, every time the WordPress core gets updated your changes will be overwritten. You’ll have to go back and make your changes again, if you remember to do so. And even then you’ll need to remember what you did to change it in the first place.

This is one of the reasons you should never touch the WordPress core. All your custom code should stay inside your theme directory.

For site search, searchform.php is used for just that.

Creating a custom search form in WordPress is super easy. Just create a new php file called searchform.php and save it in your theme directory. Then add your form code to the file.

For example:

<form action="<?php bloginfo('siteurl'); ?>" id="searchform" method="get">
         <label for="s" class="screen-reader-text">Search for:</label>
         <input type="search" id="s" name="s" placeholder="Enter keywords" required />
         <input type="image" id="searchsubmit" alt="Search" src="<?php bloginfo( 'template_url' ); ?>/images/searchicon.png" />

WordPress will now draw on this code to display your search form rather than the built-in form. You can customize it any way you want, and it won’t be affected by WordPress core updates.

See the Codex for more about adding a search form to your WordPress site.


  1. baidyanath

    Explained in very clear manner, to the point. Thank you I was looking for the customizing the default form, not able understand properly in wordpress,org.

  2. Emre

    I have a question and I couldn’t get a solution since last month.
    I have lost of categories, pages and re-directions in my blog so my search box finds many unnecessary results if we you try to search something. I want to customize my search.php for only categories part. In other words, we you search something, the results should be only from categories sections. So I will be get rid of redundant & duplicated results. My current codes are as below…Please help me :)

    1. Author
      Rob Golbeck

      Hi EMRE, Thanks for your comment and question :)

      I didn’t see your code, however I think what you’re looking to do should be possible with an advanced search plugin. The plugin I’m most familiar with is Relevanssi. It has an option to show only categories (or whatever other post type or taxonomy you choose) in the search results.

      I hope that helps!

  3. Jonathan

    Good afternoon. Is there potential here to modify this so that the search is carried out on an OpenCart installation rather than the WordPress site? Stab in the dark I know but I am hunting for a solution to create a search box which can search in OpenCart and return those results in OpenCart.

    1. Author
      Rob Golbeck

      Hi Jonathan,

      I really couldn’t say, as I’m not familiar with OpenCart. You’ll have to ask the OpenCart support folks. This post is focused on the WordPress search function.

  4. Jonathan

    No problem, Rob. It was a stab in the dark and I appreciate you replying.

  5. Faisal

    i have a search field in header right side please tell me how its work with custom coding.

  6. Mark

    Thanks for this easy to understand and very helpful article.

    I am working to set this up for a library website, and I would like to add one bit of functionality beyond what you have described.

    We need to add a radio box with two options
    A.) search this site – the normal wordpress search
    B.) post the search to our catalog website

    Is there an easy way to make the form post to either option based on the user’s radio button selection?


  7. rohit

    hello sir….

    I want to make a search form as corephp:
    1st step: User choose category from drop-down .
    2nd step: Enter keywords .
    3rd step: Search this “keyword” from selected “category” not from whole site.

    Please suggets me .

    Thanks in advance.

  8. Aji Wibowo

    Thanks! I am developing a new website for my new project, and get confused with this simple matter! Thanks for pointing that out, clear and to the point. Really appreciated that man.


  9. Narwinder

    On my website, i want to put a search option by location so that when someone search my website, they can find results from a specific location i.e. a specific city. Can you help me with that?

  10. Chris B

    Nice work Rob – I came upon this from a Google search and used a bit of your code.

  11. christi

    I am trying to make a custom search bar on the home page of wordpress site for online courses and offline classes center.. see more details here

    Is there any plugin or make this kind of search bar or any codes I have to put in for creating custom search bar like this on page on either on slider or home page.

  12. Smartfrog

    This works like a magic. Very simple! Thanks a lot! I have another question. I have two post types. Job and Event. I want different search box in each page. For example, in job archive, I will place a search box and when user type a keyword, they see result for job only. and in Event archive, I will place a search box and user see search result for event post type only. I assume I have to create two searchform.php. Do I create something like searchform-job.php and searchform-event.php? How do I get around this?

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