During a usability test of how users navigate e-commerce sites revealed that users generally see navigation elements placed inline as part of page content, and as something the site is recommending for them to select. On the other hand, traditional filtering side navigation elements are perceived as more optional choices.
Observations that emerged from the study indicated that this user perception can cause issues when categories are too broad, but have a structure that makes them unsuitable as subcategories. It can lead to a poor user experience in which shoppers end up exploring product lists that don't match their purchase intention, even though relevant filters that would have delivered more relevant results are often available.
Promoting Important Filters
Sites that promoted a set of filters as clear content as center were successful in guiding visitors to the result set that match their intent. For example, a broad category of "Jeans" could consider promoting a "Fit" filter such as regular, slim or curvy. A category of "Tops" could promote a "Style" or "Occasion" filter.
It's surprising that only 80% of the 50 largest U.S. e-commerce sites do not use this simple technique for promoting important filters on the results page, and instead end up over-categorizing
product attributes as subcategories to try and increase exposure.
Promoting important filters at the top of the product list significantly reduced amount of time spent browsing a list of products that didn't match their intent nearly as well as an available filter.
3 Tips for Promoting Filters the Right Way
- Keep the promoted filtering choices in the sidebar navigation in addition to promoting them at the top of the product list.
- Never promote filters using banner-like graphics
- Adjust the visual styling of the promoted filters to match the relative importance of applying them. In other words, as the importance of a filter increases, gradually increase their visual dominance by styling them as buttons and possible including small thumbnails for vital filters.
Use your analytics and the collective knowledge of the people who interact with your customers on a regular basis to determine which filters to promote.