What’s the most important feature of your e-commerce website?
Check out page?
Well… all the above elements are important to an ecommerce website. But, one which is often ignored, yet the most critical part of an ecommerce website is navigation.
A website is not like a book. A book is linear with a simple navigation. There are the beginning and end of the book. You flip pages to read ahead and go back. A website navigation is different. First, you don’t know where your customer will land. Depending on the link he is following, he may directly land to a product page, promoted on social media. He may land on the category page following a link appearing in the search results. He may also land on the offers page following a coupon link.
Now, no matter, where your customer lands on, he would need a guide or a hand-holder to help her navigate the website. Check what your website offers. Read in detail about your offerings. And finally, make a purchase.
Why Site Navigation Matters
A good site navigation will help your customers browse the entire website from any nook and corner. It will ensure that your customer spends more time on the website. It will help you get more opportunities to know his interests and influence his buying decisions.
- Boosting User Experience: Internet users are highly impatient. A few seconds delay or some difficulty in achieving their goal and they are off from the website. A good navigation ensures that your website is easy to use and it is quick to make a purchase. And, all this makes for better user experience.
- Search Engine Optimization: Like all other ecommerce stores, you would like your website to get top ranks in the search engine results. While there are many factors that combined decide your ranking on search results, navigation is an important one. Moreover, a good navigation also helps search engine crawlers better understand your website. Its structure and thereby helping it crawl and rank every page of your website. So, improving your site navigation can improve your SEO efforts.
And there’s no limit to optimizing your site navigation. There’s always a better and faster way to do. So, even if you believe that your site navigation is good. There’s always scope for improvement. In this article, I will give you the best practices in designing site navigation. I will also pick examples from other stores to showcase what exactly you need to do. These tips when employed will help you drive sales, boost conversions and increase user experience.
1. Pick The Right Menu Design
There are various types of menu design popular with ecommerce stores-
- Hamburger menu – For mobile websites. The links are neatly stacked up o the left. Opens when the menu button is tapped.
- Horizontal menu – Perfect for small ecommerce websites with very few products.
- Vertical menu – For small to medium ecommerce sites with moderate number of categories. For cases where the navigation is in the sidebar.
- Dropdown Menu – Ideal for very large ecommerce websites with many levels of categories and sub categories.
- Mega menu – Ideal for very large ecommerce websites with many levels of categories and sub categories.
The menu is the most important part of your navigation. Your visitors, when stuck, will look into the menu to guide them. Many factors come into play while choosing the right menu design
- How many Parent and Subcategories are there on your website?
- How many levels of navigation is right for your website?
- Which menu design will aid quick discovery of products?
Consider all the above-listed factors before picking the right menu design for your ecommerce store.
88% of e-commerce sites use a mega drop-down menu.
2. Optimally Use The Search Bar
A search bar is a must on your website. It should be available on the top navigation bar on all the pages so that visitors can use it to find the desired products. However, a full search bar will occupy a lot of space in the top navigation bar. And it will be difficult for you to accommodate many parent categories. The easiest way to address this problem is by hiding your search bar behind a magnifying glass. Once the visitors click on it, it can expand into a full search bar.
3. Use Sticky Navigation
Most of the ecommerce stores have long scrollable pages. Once the customer has scrolled deep into the page, he loses access to the main navigation. He has to scroll upward to get the navigation bar. A sticky navigation is a right solution for long scrollable pages. In a sticky navigation, the navigation bar is fixed on the top or bottom of the page. The customer can access it from anywhere down the page.
In case, for some reasons, you cannot use sticky navigation bar then a floating ‘jump to the top’ sticker will also be a good substitute.
4. Your Logo Must Click On HomePage
Clicking on the logo of the website to go back to the homepage has become a pretty standard navigation feature. People are used to it. So make your store logo clickable and link it back to your homepage.
5. Use Simple Category Labels
One of the most important but often ignored consideration. Easy to understand and clear category labels work much better than newly coined and fancy labels. Fancy category labels don’t tell your users what they are clicking on and confuse them no end.
Here are a few tips to get simple category names-
- Speak in user’s language. Choose labels that are used in normal conversations.
- Be specific in your category labels.
- Don’t coin new labels.
6. Put Same Sub-Categories Under Multiple Parent Categories
In ecommerce stores with a large product catalog, there will always be overlapping of subcategories. Some product sub-categories will be relevant to multiple parent categories. What to do then? The best way is to show it in all parent categories. Users want to quickly find the desired products. Most of them won’t bother checking other parent categories if they don’t find their product in one. So it is best to show relevant subcategories under multiple parent categories.
7. Use BreadCrumbs
Breadcrumbs are hyperlinks on a web page. Generally appearing on the top of a web page, it provides links back to each page a user has previously navigated to reach the current page. Following is a breadcrumb you will find on Vans.eu product page.
Breadcrumbs are two types-
- Hierarchy based- It depends on the order of the pages on your site.
- History-based- It depends on the user’s navigation path.
Breadcrumbs help users to efficiently navigate between various pages of the website. It also enables your shoppers to go “one step back” or return to the previous page or search results page if he has used it. It is a good practice to offer both hierarchies based and history based breadcrumbs on your website.
All popular ecommerce site building platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion etc., support breadcrumbs. Alternatively, there are plugins available to enable breadcrumbs on your website. Check for your platform. Install it and you are set.
8. Enable Filters & Sorting
Enabling filters is an excellent way to helping your shoppers narrow down their choices. If done well, filters can help your shopper buy their desired product in quick time. The choice of filters will depend on the type of products you sell on your store. So change the filtering option as per the product category. Say for furniture items you can use- categories, primary material, price, discounts, and availability etc.
BuyAKilt.com registered a 76.1% increase in revenues by using product filters. And a 26% jump in conversions.
Enabling sorting is also a great way to simplify choices for a shopper. Sorting can be on the basis of price- low to high and high to low, new arrivals first, customer ratings and relevance. UrbanLadder solves this problem by giving users an option to sort by price, discounts and Stock available.
9. Enable Suggestions And Recommendations
Users like shopping assistance. Suggesting or recommending them new products based on their past buying history is also a good way to boost your sales. You can also suggest them related products like accessories associated with a product. Say a user buys a mobile phone, you can showcase phone covers, power bank, earphones etc., related to the product.
There are many tools available in the market that can help you enable product suggestions and recommendations in your market. Most of the ecommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce etc., have a built-in product recommendations solution in their plans.
Navigation is a work in progress. You need to continuously work on it. There will always be scope for improving your site navigation. The better your site navigation is, the better your user experience and sales. If you already have a site, then start with having a good look at your navigation. How many of the above listed best practices have you employed in your navigation? Which ones are missing? Start implementing the missing ones. See if it helps you, visitors, shop faster.
And keep learning…
Here are a few recommended readings for you to improve your navigation-