A Guide to Improving Navigation and Categories in Your Store

If a user is unable to find something in a store, they cannot buy it. Obvious. I will now list the main points to improve navigation and categories in your online store, thus preventing potential frustration in users. Personally, I’m very often frustrated with amazon.es, because when you look for a product you get 800 different similar categories where it could be (I’m exaggerating, a little), and I have to look at them one by one, looking for that specific product to find things that are really similar to the one I’m interested in (related to point 2).

The main aspects which we will discuss are taken from a study performed for 8 months in the Baymard Institute (Copenhagen, Denmark), where the test subjects found up to 900 problems related to online store usability.

1. Use parent categories

Parent categories should not only serve to visually separate the various categories offered to users. As I was saying, the fact that parent categories in the Amazon drop-down menus are not clickable is confusing:

amazon_departments_menu

I cannot click Electronics

Users should be allowed to decide the level of depth they want in their search.

2. One subcategory might belong to various parent categories.

If a subcategory must appear in several parent categories, so be it. Users really shouldn’t go to the “Computers” category to find a laptop battery and for it not to appear because batteries are subcategorized under the Electronics category.

The solution: display the category wherever required.

3. What’s new in the store?

Navigation trends show that users start to look for a category related to the new products in the store. Their intention is the same as when we search in Google and only want to be shown the results for the last 3 months. If someone wants something new, you should provide it. An example to be followed here is BigShotBikes:

bikes_related_menu

4. Alternative and supplementary products.

Why have a product page which does not display complementary and/or alternative product? You are messing up navigation in your website. With tools such as this you can keep users browsing through your website for longer than usual, seriously increasing the likelihood of conversion. I just prefer not to buy from stores which don’t have this kind of tool, as I understand that the website is not aimed at providing me with personalization or more purchase options. Static product pages are going to burn out, if they haven’t burnt out already.

5. Recently viewed products

You should always, always, always display a history of recently viewed products, either by showing a history of several products or in a different, simpler way which enables me to click back to a product, instead of using the browser buttons or making life more difficult by navigating again through the website categories. This is the case of HomeShop18, where the list of recently viewed products is on the home page. They have also given it an extra twist, as it shows the recently viewed products and items related to that product, which is much more interesting than a mere history. Bravo.

homeshop18_products_homepage

6. Photos in their context

“There’s a beautiful photo in the website home page, the room in the picture is beautifully decorated, but I can’t click on any item in the photo to go directly to the product page”. This is frustrating. It’s true that this going the extra mile, but nowadays those who stand out achieve greater customer loyalty. So don’t be left behind.

For example:

Seeing the ornaments in the Ikea printed catalog is really cool because they usually provide information on the products in the image, but this is not the case with their website. When I view the new season products for Christmas Eve at 2013, I find this photo:

christmas_product_season_product_ikea

Only the cushion cover appears in the image. Let’s imagine that you could hover over any of the item and get the same information (name, price, etc.) as for the cushion next to the product link. This would be great.

I hope this will be of help.

You can find the original article (without my opinions ) via this link:

http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2013/11/11/guidelines-navigation-categories-ecommerce-study/

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