Among the many causes of website
abandonment, poor navigation is a
key contributor. Without a clear path
to products and content, and logical
choices for narrowing searches,
visitors usually decide that it’s not
worth their time and energy, or they
may conclude that you don’t carry
the product they’re looking for.
Even worse, they may assume that your service is as bad as your
navigation, in which case they’ll go to your competition’s site to
find the products they seek.
Fortunately, there are many straightforward tactics for making
site navigation better, and preventing site abandonment by visitors
who become lost within navigation dead ends and confusing
pathways. With some changes to your navigation design, and by
testing various options to see which ones work best for your visitors,
you can create a navigational experience that helps visitors
succeed in finding the products or information they’re looking for
as quickly as possible.
The tips below can help you create a satisfying and productive
browsing and searching environment for your customers.
Let visitors navigate around your site from any page.
often get “stuck” after they arrive on a site from a search engine,
from special offers or ads on another website, or from a link on a
blog. Be sure to show visitors how they’ve landed on your site with
a navigation bar at the top of the page, and allow them to navigate
to other pages without having to go back to your homepage —
no matter what page they landed on initially. Be sure to include the
navigation bar on all the pages so that visitors can easily browse
from page to page.
Only show refinements that have results.
Make sure the refinements
you show are relevant to the category, and that all the
refinements you offer provide results. You don’t want to frustrate
visitors by delivering a subcategory page without any content.
You can also customize refinements for each category. For example,
if a visitor selects “dresses,” they probably don’t need to
refine by gender.
Display breadcrumb trails.
As visitors browse your site, they
often need to know how they got to the page they’re on — and
how they can get back to an earlier starting point. Show visitors
the refinements they applied to get to the page they are currently
on, so that they’ll know where they are and why they received
the results shown. This also makes it easy for them to move up
the navigational “ladder” without having to click the back button
on their browser.
Offer viewing options for browsing.
Different visitors will have
different ideas as to how they want to see your site’s content or
products. Choose a default method such as a grid or list view for
displaying information, but let visitors choose which views work
best for them. Grid views let people see more content above the
fold with bigger images and fewer details, while list views show
smaller images but contain more details. A hybrid view combines
these benefits, offering larger images and more product details.
Ratings and Reviews
Show ratings and reviews information in navigation and refinement
Add ratings and reviews to product and content
information displayed on navigation pages, and allow visitors
to refine by star ratings. Many visitors want to see content and
products with the best ratings first, and some won’t want to see any
but the top-rated choices.
Provide options to navigate among reviews.
It can be tough
for visitors to wade through pages of reviews. If your products or
content generate a high number of reviews, allow visitors to
choose which types of reviews they see (positive or negative, for
example) or offer a quick summary of good and bad reviews.
Many sites let visitors view reviews by pros, cons and best uses,
and sort by newest, oldest, highest rated or most helpful. This reduces
the steps visitors must take before deciding on a purchase.
Use sliders for continuous refinements.
For refinements such
as price or size range, sliders take up less space on the webpage.
Some visitors may find them more complicated than alternatives
such as links or drop-down menus with fixed ranges, or text
boxes allowing users to specify upper and lower limits. If you
want to use sliders, test them and make sure your visitors understand
how they work. Also, make sure your sliders work well
on a touchscreen device so that mobile users can work with them — if your sliders don’t work well in the mobile environment,
you can use alternatives such as drop-down menus.
Show color refinements using color palettes.
add visual appeal to navigation, in addition to helping site visitors
choose a color option. They’ll respond more quickly to a
display of actual colors than the names of colors in text — and
showing color options takes up less space on the page. Palettes
can also remove confusion that may arise from “artistic” color
names. For instance, you may call a color “southwest sunset,”
but the site visitor won’t know if that means yellow, orange or
something in between.
Add visual appeal by using images for navigation.
using images to indicate navigational categories, such as product
types (cookware, clothing, sporting goods, for example), brands,
colors and shapes. Make sure the images you use are clear and
simple, and won’t leave your customers guessing as to what they
mean. Also, make sure navigational images can’t be confused
with actual products or content. You can minimize confusion on
navigation pages by displaying other cues to help differentiate
between subcategories and products. For example, show the
number of results that visitors will see if they click on the subcategory
images, label subcategory images clearly, and make sure
there’s a clear distinction between the layout of your products
and your subcategories.
Use banners to enhance your navigation pages.
give your visitors a visual confirmation of their location, indicating
where they are in the product category. They also help you
highlight sales, special promotions and popular results related to
the navigation category, as well as shipping specials and related
Offer merchandising-specific refinements.
need to be limited to product and content details. Visitors will
want to know which items are on sale, which are new arrivals, or
which are bundled together as part of special deals. Allowing
visitors to refine by these factors is a great way to improve the
usability of your site, and guide visitors to items that you are
promoting while improving conversion potential.
Rank content and products in a way that makes sense for
For instance, you may want to show your highestmargin
products first, or the ones for which you have excess stock.
You can separate the results into “items on special promotion” and
“most popular items”, for example — or, show all items in the same
results list, but with the top five items in excess stock listed first
followed by the most popular items.
About the Author: Thierry Costa is the vice president of marketing responsible for SLI
Systems’ global marketing efforts and driving growth of SLI’s search
technology and services in the ecommerce and publishing industries.