3 Tips for Better Product Discovery
:: By Larry Alton, @LarryAlton3 ::
With so much of today’s focus on Web design and how you can develop sites that are aesthetically pleasing, the conversation regarding navigation seems to have been pushed to the back burner.
If you haven’t evaluated your site’s navigation in the past few months, now’s the time to carefully consider how you’re doing particularly as the industry moves into the high sales months of fall and winter and shoppers are actively discovering new products.
3 Ways to Improve Your Site’s Navigation
Website navigation trends are very fluid. What’s considered common practice at the beginning of the year can quickly become obsolete by the end of the year. With that being said, let’s check out a few best practices that tend to hold true over time.
By following these tips, you can develop a website that users find pleasing to use.
1. Simplify Navigation Menu
For websites that have hundreds or thousands of individual pages, one of the most challenging aspects of website navigation is making them easy to find without overwhelming visitors.
“People like to move fast while on the Web,” Hallam Internet explains. “If they are presented with a navigation menu with 10 or more options, it means that they will have to read them all first to be sure that they click the one they are looking for.”
Check out this example from Wood-Furnaces.net to get an idea of what menu simplification looks like. As you’ll see, the website has dozens of individual pages, but instead of giving each category its own link, the homepage features just eight top-level categories. These make the site easily searchable without confusing the visitor.
2. Use Links, Not Buttons
In the past, there was a temptation for Web designers to use graphical buttons to help visitors navigate from page to page. While these buttons may look great, they’re actually very ineffective from a navigation standpoint.
Buttons are not search friendly and require manual updating and editing. They also load more slowly than links and often create confusion when viewed on mobile devices. Hyperlink text, on the other hand, is quickly identifiable and searchable. Always use in-text hyperlinks and make sure they’re underlined or colored.
3. Improve Search and Filter Functions
For e-commerce websites in particular, search and filter functions are extremely important. They’re at the heart of whether a visitor converts or leaves. As such, it’s imperative that you spend time perfecting this aspect of your site.
Here are some things you can do to make your website search and filter functions better:
• Use intelligent autocomplete to aide in a user’s search. According to research, customers who land on a page suggested by autocomplete technology are six times more likely to convert than those who do not.
• When a website has tons of subcategories, it’s often difficult for customers to move back and forth between different sections of the site. One way to help your visitors out is by including smart breadcrumb systems that let them navigate freely without losing their progress.
• It’s amazing how many websites don’t even offer the basic “sort by” features that customers have come to expect. At a very minimum, you need to give your customers the chance to sort by price (low to high and vice versa), rating and size (if applicable).
For an example of effective search and filter functions, check out Nike’s website. They offer everything a customer needs to find exactly what they want.
Invest in Your Site’s Usability
Today’s Internet users are savvy. They’ve been conditioned by high-quality websites that are easy to use and navigate. If your navigation doesn’t live up to their expectations, they aren’t going to stick around very long.
It’s time to listen up and improve your website’s usability.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.