Senior Product Manager Mobile at Tesco
28 April 2011 09:24am
Does anyone have any stats or views on how customers prefer to navigate through a retail site online? Clearly it will vary by customer type and how well designed the website is but given a choice of visual navigation, site wide search and left hand navigation which are most commonly used by customers and is the split changing?
A follow up question is if customers do want to use visual navigation or left hand nav filters whats the balance between having lots of sub levels (e.g. lots of clicks) vs. a few levels but potentially a larger pot of products at the end or a larger list of variations shown to the customer at each level.
Any advice very welcome,
Technical Project Manager (MBA, MBCS, CITP, CEng) at Naxtech.com
30 April 2011 14:12pm
I do not have any stats but regardless of stats, from experience a "simple/easy to use interface" along with "quick and practical" functionality seems to work well for most types of customers.
I hope this helps.
Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWD
03 May 2011 12:59pm
This is a great question and one which I hope I can shed some light on for you.
In my experiences particularly through facilitating user testing sessions for retailers, I am seeing a definite shift in user behaviour when it comes to retail navigation.
As you say this will always vary by the customer type as as well as what kind of products the retailer is selling, but below are some of my insights.
> large, multi-column navigation flyout menus are becoming common as well as being well received by users to reduce the number of clicks within a browsing journey
> left hand side attribute filters are now becoming expected, particularly on sites where there are potentially hundreds of products within a category
> visual navigation is still an important way for users who prefer a more visual, inspirational browsing experience to find suitable products - they are happy paging through a category of products
> providing the user with the option of controlling how many products are shown on 1 page is important and provides them with more flexibility
> sitewide search is still particularly important for visitors who are looking for a particular product/catalogue no. (and who typically use search as the primary way to find products, irrespective of site), although a well designed navigation, flyout menu and filtered left hand navigation can be almost as good for these users who prefer search
In terms of how many filters to provide, the main consideration here is whether or not the particular product category is attribute heavy ie. washing machines, TV's, mobiles. In addition to more generic filters such as price range (sliders are preferrable by users), sizes, colours and product 'type', for products which you wouldn't consider as being attribute heavy it would be overkill to try and come up with more filters for users.
The use of hiding and showing certain filters can be a good way of ensuring the left hand side navigation doesn't appear to be overwhelming to users when they first see it when browsing a category.
Another tip for filters is to allow users to choose multiple opeions for the same filter, such as colour, rather that only allowing users to choose 1 option from each attribute.
As a general guideline I recommend retailers provide flexibility for users when it comes to browsing and navigation.
I hope this has helped, please get in touch with me if you would like more insights.
03 May 2011 13:49pm
Thanks Paul thats useful, from the testing I've seen I'd definitely agree the large flyouts seem to work well with customers happy to scan quite lengthy lists to get straight to what they want.
Managing Director at User Vision
04 May 2011 17:03pm
There are no reliable stats that I know of and anything would greatly depend on the type of business they are in. However some trends I am aware of through experience, testing etc
* Maturity of buyer - certainly the user's position on a buying evolution scale from "browser (I'm not sure what I'm looking for - could use some inspiration or ideas) to "buyer" (I know exactly what I am looking for) will be the key determinant. Those that think they know exactly what they are looking for are more likely to use search (downside is if they are truly unimpressed with the search results they are even more unlikely to stick around on the site).
* Good trigger words - good navigation should ideally contain the "trigger words" that serve as a bridge between the thing / idea in the person's head and what you have on the site. The creation of groups and labels for those is critical (and the basis for the world of information architecture design).
* Mega dropwdowns - the ones where you hover over the top level items to reveal many subcategories - can be very effective since they give the user more chance of encountering a trigger word. This provides a good "preview" effect.
* Multi faceted nav - allowing people to drill down into the content by the factors / facets that are most important to them - this is the secret behind a good left nav filtering system, as done so well on certain fashion sites. Selecting the right facets and options based on research with users helps.
Some other quick thoughts:
* In general I find people think they are a lot more search dominant than they actually are
* Definitely keep and eye on your site search analytics for the valuable info that lives in there
* Usually its better to design "wide and shallow" IA rather than "Narrow and deep"
* Steer clear of overly simple & supposedly sagacious statements such as "never have more than 7 items in a navigation list" or "all content needs to be within 3 clicks of every page on your site"
* its not so much a matter of how web users navigate but how YOUR users navigate. In other words researching the nav design through categorisation testing, usability tests and other methods is more valuable than generic stats.
Best of luck and let me know if you have any questions we can help out on.
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