A nine-month usability study by the team at the Baymard Institute researched and observed how users browse, filter, and evaluate products in e-commerce product lists. The study included both search and category based product lists. Shockingly, their benchmark
revealed that only 16% of major e-commerce sites offer a reasonably good filtering experience.
The report provides insights into several areas related to the users' filtering experience during the study. Topping the list of issues is the fact that 42% of top e-commerce websites lack category-specific filter types for several of their core product categories.
Category-Specific Filters Matter
Oftentimes, if not most of the time, shoppers are more interested in refining a product list with a category-specific attribute rather than site-wide attributes, like brand, price, user ratings, etc. For example, material is an appropriate filtering attribute for coats, but it's not highly relevant for TVs. Another example would be filtering cameras by camera-specific attributes, such as megapixels, zoom level, and lens mount. None of these attributes would make sense for other types of electronics, but they're highly relevant to a photographer.
A good rule of thumb is to create a filter for product specifications that are important enough to display on the product detail, however only use attributes that are "need to know" vs "good information." A shopper is probably interested to know whether the figurine they are looking at is made from china or resin, but in this case the material probably doesn't factor into shopper intent.
It's also a good idea to promote category-specific filters inline on the product listing page, in addition to displaying them in the side navigation. The key is to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to get to the products that match their intent.
Last but not least, when a the product list is a set of search results, faceted search navigation should display only the relevant, product-specific filters without the users having to specify a category.
- Always make sure that each category has filters that are specific to the type of product.
- Promote category-specific filters inline and on the side navigation.
- Only display filters that are important to the buy decision.