Five Steps to Optimize Navigation on Your eCommerce Website
Improve User Experience and Increase Conversions by Taking Your Online Store Navigation Options Seriously
A lot of users turn to online shopping because it’s often more convenient than the in-person experience. With this in mind, if you run an online store, making the purchase experience as simple and seamless as possible should be at the top of your to-do list.
Easing navigation for your visitors allows for an overall improved user experience and makes it easy-as-pie for them to find the products they’re looking for. This, in turn, can lead to higher conversion rates and reduced bounce rates (no one fleas a website faster than a frustrated user).
Below, we offer five steps toward optimizing navigation on your eCommerce store to make your visitors’ journeys both painless for them and profitable for you.
Keep Your Navigation Options Simple
There are a ton of ways you can guide users to the different corners of your website: from your main navigation menu to footer nav menus to calls to action throughout the site to links embedded within content blocks and more. It’s great to keep different areas of your site connected to one another, but above all else, you should strive to make site navigation as simple for your users as possible.
For example, your main navigation menu should provide a high-level overview of what your company sells and include only the most important links to the eCommerce side of your website. Additionally, keep the number of top-level items to a minimum—seven links or less; this will help ensure you don’t overwhelm your users with too many options upfront.
If your store is robust and features a good number of product categories, utilize columned drop-down menus that appear below the top-level items on hover (or via easy-to-select arrows on mobile). Smart use of drop-down menus can give users a quick and organized view of all categories and subcategories available to them.
For secondary content items—such as FAQs, locations pages, staff pages, etc.—consider featuring these solely in the footer or, if they’re a big part of your brand’s narrative, in a smaller navigation bar above the main navigation menu.
Use Descriptive Labels in Your Main Navigation Menu
When users take an at-a-glance view of your main navigation menu, they should instantly know where to go next to find what they’re looking for. If possible, avoid generic labels like “Products” or “Shop” in your top-level nav menu and instead use descriptive terms that are relevant and meaningful to your audience. (Remember those customer personas Veronica talked about a couple weeks ago? Those are relevant here, too.) Descriptive navigation labels will help your visitors do a quick scan of what you’ve got on offer and will clearly signal how each link differs from the next.
As a bonus, descriptive labels are beneficial for SEO—search engine algorithms love websites that establish clear user journeys and content structures, and descriptive navigation menus are key to achieving this.
Note: Descriptive does not necessarily mean “totally unique to your brand.” As eCommerce app Sumo points out: “Be clear, not clever when it comes to navigation. Naming a category ‘Puppy Food’ is better than ‘Puppy’s Banquet’ in most situations.” Again, it’s all about understanding what your customers want—and not making assumptions that they’ve already been exposed to your brand and what you do.
Include an Easy-to-Find Search Bar
This is another tip Veronica included in her post a couple weeks ago, but the advice is so nice we’re mentioning it twice. Some of your users may come to your site wanting to casually browse everything you have to offer, scroll through all your content, and check out every drop-down menu available (irresistible brands can do that to people).
But chances are, a number of your visitors will want to make a quick bee-line to a desired product. Again, about a third of your site’s visitors will want to use search functionality to speedily locate something specific—and when they are able to locate whatever they’re looking for, there’s an incredibly high chance they will make a purchase (ie, “convert”). A number of users may also use search bars as a back-up plan—if other attempts to find the product have failed, your potential customer may see the search bar as their last hope (before bouncing off the site altogether—yikes).
Breadcrumbs—aka links leading to the previous page or a category overview page that are often found immediately below the masthead area on an eCommerce store subcategory or directly above descriptions on a product page—help create a seamless navigation experience by indicating to the user exactly where they are on your site.
Breadcrumbs also reduce the number of clicks a user needs to take in order to return to a previous page—and in this day and age of “digest everything possible as fast as you can,” reducing a user’s clicks does wonders for their site satisfaction levels.
Make Good Use of the Footer
While the masthead area is often the first impression a user will have of your site—and of your brand—this shouldn’t cause you to forget about the very bottom section of any given page. Footers can be just as effective as headers in driving conversions. In fact, some studies suggest that you can bump conversions up by over 23 percent by improving your site’s footer area.
So, what goes into a good footer? Well, that depends on your brand, but as a rule of thumb, this is a great area to, first and foremost, feature links to your main (or most popular) product categories. It’s also a good space to link off to about pages (company history, locations, FAQs, etc.) and—perhaps most importantly of all—customer support pages. You may even want to consider embedding a customer support form right into your footer.
As with the main navigation, however, make sure each link is clean and accessible. There’s no need for a ton of visual clutter here. If a user is navigating to your footer, there’s a good chance they already know the content they’re trying to find and will want to do so quickly. If it’s not obvious by now, when it comes to navigation, simplicity is always your friend.
Need Help Cleaning Up Your User Journey to Boost Conversions on Your eCommerce Website?
At efelle, we’ve been making eCommerce websites since 2005—we know a thing or two about helping users find exactly what they’re looking for. If you’re trying to boost conversions, decrease bounce, and pump up the revenue of your online store, give us a shout. You can reach us at 206.384.4909 or via our online contact form.