By creating a well structured site navigation, you help customers quickly get wherever they want to get to in the store, creating a great user experience and increasing sales. These 10 tips to improve your site navigation will help you in this task
Online stores today offer more products than ever before. With such a wide selection, locating specific products may be tricky, so sellers must offer their customers an option to sort through the inventory quickly and efficiently. When so many products are on sale, most often performing a search will not be enough, and will leave the customer to browse through hundreds, and even thousands of products. Site navigation, or attribute navigation, helps customers slice through large sets of data, and narrow down the results to a more manageable number. It is also important to remember that most online shoppers are browsers, meaning that many of them don’t have any specific initial shopping intent at the beginning.
Site navigation makes it much easier to browse the store, by enabling customers to easily refine the results according to their interests. By creating a well structured site navigation, you help customers quickly get wherever they want to get to in the store, creating a great user experience and increasing sales.
In this article, we will give you some useful tips on how to improve your site navigation, in order to create an even better user experience for your customers, which of course leads to more conversions.
The attributes, and values within them, must be relevant to the category they are in. For example, in the T-Shirts category, site navigation should offer such attributes as size, color, material, sleeve length, neckline etc., but not screen size, for example, which has nothing to do with t-shirts.
If you are not sure which attributes you should include in certain categories, the best practice is to go over and see what the leading brands in the industry are doing, as well as your competitors. You can also learn a lot from your own customers: review the most searched for keywords in each category, read customers feedback etc. and adjust the navigation to match their needs.
As we mentioned before, most of the customers are browsers. That is why it is important to allow them plenty of flexibility, for instance, by enabling them to select multiple values in a single attribute. For example, a customer who is looking to purchase a digital camera should be able to select several values in the “Resolution” attribute, and not limited to only one option. Multiple selection helps customers narrow down the search results to a much more manageable number of relevant results, improving user experience and increasing the chances of conversion.
One of the makings of a bad user experience is the existence of a “No Results Found” dead end. It is very frustrating to customers to face this dead end, after they carefully selected all the attributes and values that interest them.
A good way to avoid this is have your site navigation to adjust after each attribute selection, to reflect the inventory. For instance, if a customer who wants to buy a jacket selects the “Leather” value from the “Material” attribute, and you don’t sell blue leather jackets in your store, then the “Blue” value in the Color attribute should be not available. That way you can minimize the instances of customers getting back “No Results Found”.
Navigation is there for the benefit of the customers, and you should not confuse them with unnecessary options. It is recommended to break down categories into subcategories with their own sets of attributes. For example, the Clothing category contains many different types of products, each with its own relevant attributes. When a customer goes to the t-shirt subcategory, the attributes should only reflect this subcategory, and not all products under the Clothing parent category. As navigation’s purpose is to make the shopping experience smooth and quick, offering too many options might be counter productive and confusing.
If you browse the major e-commerce website, you will see that in most of them the navigation panel is placed vertically along the left side of the screen. Since most customers are used to reading from left to right, they cannot miss the navigation panel, and will usually go on to use it to refine the results. By designing the navigation panel with collapsable menus, you are also able to put in more information vertically, without taking over more screen space.
Conversely, using a horizontal navigation panel creates a competition between the panel and the rest of the screen, so it may be useful for stores that don’t sell many products. If you add too many attributes in a horizontal panel, it might end up covering half the screen, which makes for a very bad user experience.
In order for the navigation to function properly, every detail needs to be taken into account, including the way you list values within attributes. It is important to have some order and logic to them, rather than just pile them on. Some of them are quite straightforward: prices should be listed in ascending order, as well as sizes. Some values may be listed alphabetically (again, if it makes sense), and some are affected by search popularity.
Once again, it is helpful to go check what the industry leaders and your competitors are doing in order to get a clearer picture.
There are different types of attributes selection, such as drop-down menu, checkbox, sliders, links, etc. Some attributes are flexible and can be shown in different ways, but some require a specific type of selection to work properly. For example, the “Price” attribute may be displayed with checkboxes reflecting different price ranges. However, a slider bar may be more useful and accurate for the customers.
In addition, where multiple selection of values is possible, it is best practice to use checkboxes. In contrast, where only one value may be selected, a drop-down menu may be more appropriate.
Familiarize yourself with the demands of your customers and industry standards to get a better understanding of which types of selection is best to use.
It is easy to lose yourself in shopping, and sometimes customers need a reminder of where exactly they are in the store, and which attributes they have selected. In order to save them the time of looking over the navigation panel to see their selections, it is recommended to show all selected attributes and values at the top of the page. This helps customers know where they are, and easily make any adjustments to their selection.
The selected attributes may be shown in a few different ways. The breadcrumb trail is a common one, showing the selected attributes as a trail at the top of the page. With each new attribute selected, the trail becomes one step longer, to reflect the addition. Another way is to show all selected attributes in a separate box at the top of the navigation panel, and yet another one is to highlight the selection in the navigation panel itself.
Try all of these methods, and see what works best for you and for your customers.
It is understandable that sellers want to show the uniqueness of their online store. But sometimes it is over doing it. Try to avoid giving your attributes and values unique names that customers will not understand. If the customers don’t know how to find what they are looking for, they will simply leave your store. Leave the creativity for other aspects of the site, and use the most popular phrases and names, so your customers will feel at home.
Once more, it is very helpful to look into what industry leaders are doing, as they have put in a lot of effort and resources to find out what their customers have come to expect. Examining the searched keywords and reviewing customer feedback may also give you an insight into what your customers want.
Attribute navigation is supposed to make the shopping experience quick and efficient. One key to this is display the narrowed-down results as soon as the customer selects an attribute. According to a study, the ideal website load time is 1-2 seconds, and 53% of visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. Another study found that a one second delay in page-load can cause 7% loss in customer conversions.
It is therefore recommended to structure site navigation in such a way that instead of refreshing the entire page with each new selection, only the specific requested data is displayed, thus cutting down loading time significantly.
These tips will help you improve your site navigation and overall user experience in your online store. It is always important to listen to the demands of your customers and learn from the industry leaders how to improve site navigation.