Guidelines for Better E-Commerce Navigation and Categories


The core purpose of an e-commerce site is to make sales. To encourage your customers to make a purchase, the e-commerce site should be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Customers should be able to find what they are looking for easily and quickly. Proper navigation and category alignments should be made when designing the website to ensure that the e-commerce site is user-friendly. Usability is one of the key aspects that web designers have to focus on when creating an e-commerce.

Just as one would design a retail outlet, the e-commerce site should also be created with making it easier for the customers to navigate freely and find what they want without having to seek help. In this article, we will discuss the guidelines for creating better navigation and category options during the design phase.

Keep it Simple

The simpler it is to find a product on an e-commerce site, the more the chances are of the customer making a purchase. So the ease of navigating through your e-commerce site has a direct impact on your bottom line. The key to increasing sales is to create an e-commerce site that is easy to navigate through. So keep the navigation aspect of it simple and clear. Don’t complicate the navigational structure, or you could end up frustrating your customers.

Keeping the navigation simple and functional is easy - just think about how you would want the site to be in terms of usability. How easy would you want it to be when you want to find something you wish to buy online? Keep that in mind and design the navigation structure.

Have Parent Categories - Make Them Significant

Categorization is an important aspect of navigation. Segregating what you are offering into different categories will make it easier for the customers to find what they want. For instance, if you are offering retail goods like denims, tees, shoes, bags, belts, sunglasses and more, you can categorize them into different classes like apparel, footwear, accessories. You can also have sub-categories like Men, Women and Children under these parent categories, and then categorize each of these into different sub-sections based on the type of product you are offering.

Ensure that the parent categories are a part of the navigational hierarchy and not mere labels. The categories should be logical and also relevant - use standard, well-defined labels that the customer base can identify and understand. Avoid jargons when designing navigation of the website, as that can mislead the customers and put them off too. 

Introducing What's New

Another way to make your products findable online is to highlight them. This is especially in case of new products that you want the customers to know about. Include a 'what's new' section in the website and make sure the label or link to it is visible. Include everything that you want to introduce to the customer in this section and also add sub categories that lead to the new product page under that specified sub category. This page should also suggest similar products that the customer is likely to be interested in.

The "what's new" section is an excellent way to make your new products visible and also drive up sales of your latest offerings.

Link Images To The Right Product Page

Another mistake that designers make is linking a specific product's image to a category page. For instance, the home page of your website may feature a pair of sports shoes. However, when the customer clicks on it, he or she is led to the category page instead of the product page. Now the customer has to start the search within that page all over again to find that specific pair of shoes. Or they have to browse through the list of products on the page, which can be quite frustrating.

If you plan to use the image of a specific product, make sure you link that image to the right product page and not the category page.

Reduce The Number Of Clicks

The quicker customers can find a product they want on the site, the better the chances are of them buying it. Take them on a round-about path to finding their choice of product, they will simply end the search and leave the site. So ensure that the customers can go to the page they want in as few clicks as possible.

Make Products Searchable

The best way to make sure that your customers find what they want on your site is to include a search tab. Make each and every product listed on your site findable through the search bar, to minimize the number of clicks that the customer has to go through to reach the product or purchase page.

Structure Of Navigation

Choosing the right navigation structure is one of the most important aspects of successful website design. The navigational structure can be divided into several types including

  • Horizontal Navigation
  • Vertical Navigation
  • Drop Down Navigation
  • First and Second Rate Navigation - based on the kind of content the users are likely to search for.

Ask these questions to determine the kind of navigation structure, the labels and the style to choose for designing the site navigation.

  • What kind of people are likely to visit your site?
  • What would their technical proficiency be?
  • What kinds of terms are they most likely to use?

The basic idea of an e-commerce site is to ensure that you make purchasing simpler and easier for your customers. Navigation is the most important thing to take care of if you want your customers to accomplish what you want them to.

Research has proven that sales through e-commerce sites will reach 370 billion USD by 2017. If you want a piece of that huge pie, make sure your site navigation is flawless. Make your e-commerce site more than just a platform for investing in your product or service. Make it a channel for two-way interaction between you and your customers. 

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