While this might sound like common sense, it bears repeating as often as possible. The key purpose of an ecommerce site is to sell products. The more you keep that fact in mind, the easier you can make it for shoppers to find their way around your site and the more products you are likely to sell.
So, that flashy new avant-garde look your designer just showed you might wow visitors at first glance, but if it makes it difficult for them to find what they’re looking for, it’s a waste of money. Whatever design you choose, make sure it adheres to these ecommerce navigation best practices.
- Label Top Navigation for Relevance
If you offer a variety of products for different purposes, consider grouping them accordingly. If you’re running an online bookstore, your top-level navigation can be genre based. If you’re selling furniture, create navigation by product type or the room for which it is intended. Bottom line, think like a customer and group your products where they’re most likely to look for them. These should also be clickable, or “tappable” for mobile. Dropdowns are good for saving space (though some experts say it hurts SEO).
- Employ a Sticky Navigation Bar
With mobile devices, your customers will scroll. Format your site so that regardless of how deeply they scroll, the navigation bar remains visible at the top of the screen—it sticks. This way, should they decide to look in another area, they can do so quickly and easily.
- Limit Menu Items to Seven
If you give people too many choices, they freeze up. To keep the appearance of your site manageable, limit their choices in any given situation to a maximum of seven. This makes it easier for them to grasp them all and make a decision. With that said, when you choose your ecommerce theme, keep in mind the amount of content you have will determine the best menu type for your situation.
- Adhere to Established Conventions
Over the years, web users have learned to expect sites to respond to certain inputs in certain ways. For example, clicking on a site’s name or logo (which should always be located in the top left corner) takes you to the home page from wherever you are on the site. If your site makes people have to “figure out” how things work—they won’t. Instead, they’ll bounce out of it to find a more intuitive user experience. This still leaves you lots of room for creativity. The key takeaway here is to be careful to ensure your creative efforts do not challenge your customers’ understanding.
- Search Function Is Mandatory
Even with the simplest navigation imaginable, some people are going to want to search for their item of choice to get directly to it. These are the customers you really want to please because these are generally the ones looking to buy right now. An internal search function also improves SEO. The standard magnifying glass symbol has come to indicate the presence of the search function. Ideally, you’ll place it at the far left of a horizontal menu bar or the top of a vertical one. You don’t have to include a window, as long as one opens when the magnifying glass is tapped or clicked. This can help you conserve valuable screen space.
Yes, these tips might sound really basic, but you’d be surprised how many sites overlook these simple methods of keeping shoppers engaged. Bottom line, following ecommerce navigation best practices will make your site easier for customers to use. Making your site easier to use keeps shoppers engaged longer. And, keeping visitors engaged improves your chances of conversion.