Who has the best site navigation – Nike, Adidas or Under Armour?
By the end, we will have crowned a winner.
We’re going to start by looking at category pages, because some of the most interesting differences between the three brands are seen here.
Nike – Category pages
Nike has three really useful features which neither Adidas nor Under Armour can boast.
Firstly, category pages include some extra navigation elements. Below you can see a cool example of a pictoral menu that sits above category listings.
These menus help to add structure to sometimes nebulous categories. The first example shows the ‘Men’s Lifestyle Shoes’ category with a pictoral menu at the top showcasing Nike’s most popular collections of shoe models (e.g. Air Max).
This is a great feature because browsers might not know the name of the shoe they are looking for, and therefore the text-based ‘collections’ filter on the left-hand side would not help.
The site’s header menu doesn’t drill down as far as collections, so it makes sense that Nike showcases them prominently on category pages.
Pictoral headers on category pages
Below you can see a second example of these pictoral menus within category pages. This time we are looking at the Basketball category.
Again, users could simply scroll down the filters on the left-hand side and narrow down the selection to ‘tops’, for example. But, the pictoral menu is a much more salient way of asking the customer to narrow down their selection.
Nike’s product listings are presented in an endless scrolling format, and they load quickly with no noticeable lag as I scroll down the page.
The filters on the left-hand side will stick to the page as I scroll. This is a feature that is unique amongst the three websites. Bravo Nike.
The final thing to note is that Nike includes a nested menu on the left-hand side, above the filters.
So, if I select ‘Lifestyle Shoes’, I can see the hierarchy shown below on the left-hand side. This is useful because the user does not want to have to go back into the site’s header menu – to do so feels like a step back and an extra page load.
Nested menu above filters
The filters work as one would expect and are easy to use. Filters can be folded away if desired. It is perhaps notable that there isn’t a price filter – I’m sure Nike didn’t forget to include one, rather it thought it to be counterintuitive when encouraging an impulse buy of some smart sneakers.
Of course, one can sort by price (low to high or vice versa), but cannot set their own parameters. ’Athlete’ is one example of an interesting ‘extra’ filter though, allowing users to filter for ‘Roger Federer’ for example.
When it comes to a score, I’m going to give Nike a bit of a silly mark (six out of five). In my defence, Nike’s category pages are a masterclass in usability and fun.
Adidas – Category pages
Some of the great features of Nike’s category pages are missing here. Adidas does not offer endless scroll through product listings, which is an annoyance.
The filters also do not pin to the left-hand side as I scroll down the page, meaning I have to head back up in order to fiddle with them.
Adidas category page
Most annoying though, once you have used Nike’s website, is the lack of that nested menu on the left-hand side of category pages, above the filters.
I don’t want to overplay this too much because, as you can see below, I can filter by types of shoes (running etc.) and by brand (Originals etc.) and all these subcategories are also available in the header menu.
However, Nike’s solution just seems more elegant because it keeps me better rooted, letting me know where I am in the product catalogue and what else I can explore, without having to rummage around in filters, or head back to the header menu.
In Adidas’s favour, it does offer filters for price (Nike does not), as well as discount. On the whole, Adidas category pages are clear as crystal but not quite as elegant or fun as Nike’s.
Under Armour – Category pages
And so to Under Armour. There’s one thing you should notice immediately about its category pages.
Filters sit at the top of results, rather than on the left-hand side. The user has to click these filter dropdown to select any of the options, which is very annoying.
The filters are also universal across categories, which results in clunky UX. For example, the ‘Fit type’ filter contains only one option (‘regular’) when looking at the Shoes category. The ‘End use’ filter is also clearly a ridiculous fudging of copywriting.
Under Armour category page
Under Armour fails to provide numbers against filters (which Nike and Adidas do well), so users don’t know when they select a filter whether one product or 50 will be returned.
There is a number of results shown in the top right next to the sort function (seen below), but this isn’t sufficient on its own, and both of these elements need to be made bigger and brought closer to the listings.
In short, there is lots to improve upon.
Sort is slightly peripheral
Nike – Search
Nike’s search works well, with search suggestions as shown below.
Nike search suggestions
Results are returned immediately, often with a simple gender filter on the left-hand side.
Nike search results
Using this gender filter will then reveal Nike’s standard left-hand side category menu, and results can be refined further using product filters.
As you can see on the screenshot below, the search term is shown within the results, and this can be removed if desired.
Nike search results
Of course, search hasn’t been truly mastered yet on many ecommerce websites, given the difficulty of creating a foolproof artificially-intelligent suggestions engine.
As such, suggestions can be clunky. Below is a nicely absurd example.
Nike search suggestion
Again, search cannot solve all problems, so if you search for ‘size 11 shoes’ for example, the site doesn’t ‘understand’ this term.
As you can see below, I was simply presented with shoes that had the nuber 11 in their product title. However, these are problems that most ecommerce companies have with site search.
Nike search gone wrong
What was good though about Nike search is that it corrected my typos (see below). This is something that Adidas and Under Armour failed to do.
Nike’s search is overall pretty good.
Nike search amends typos
Adidas – Search
Adidas goes the extra mile with site search. Suggestions are presented as categories and products, so the user knows exactly where they stand.
The product suggestions come with thumbnail images. As an aside, these are tactics that RS Components used to increase clickthrough on popular products and categories.
Adidas knows what it’s doing here.
Adidas search suggestions with thumbnails
Search results are very clear, using the same format as category listings.
Incidentally, if I search for ‘size 11 shoes’, Adidas’s search delivers me to the shoe sizing chart page, which is not a bad shout at all.
Adidas search results
Apart from dealing with spelling mistakes (where Adidas merely gives me some tips and some category links, shown below), I didn’t see much to improve as far as Adidas search goes.
Adidas search with typo
Under Armour – Search
Under Armour’s search was not dissimilar to Adidas’s, but didn’t have the same finesse.
Suggested searches weren’t quite as decisive as with Adidas (see below for comparison). Thumbnails were included, but they didn’t seem as appropriate in all searches.
As mentioned previously, Under Armour didn’t understand my typos either.
The received wisdom on navigation and homepages is to maintain a user’s buying momentum.
What that means, according to Greg Randall, is that products should never be placed on the homepage.
Instead, the homepage should point to main/popular categories (essentially a digested header menu).
In the case of Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, I would disagree with this received wisdom, because these megabrands attract traffic that may not have buying momentum at all.
I often head to Nike’s website, yes to look at shoes, but with no particular shoe in mind, and not necessarily ready to buy. Therefore, Nike’s homepage should offer me something unexpected, to aid my discovery.
This is arguably part of navigation, so let’s have a look.
Nike – Homepage
Nike’s homepage hedges its bets between showcasing products and categories, as you can see in the two screenshots below.
Basketball for kids, fleeces, a new range of basketball shoes – the page is quite basketball heavy. Nike’s basketball shoes are high value items that have a status in the game unmatched by Adidas and (arguably until recently) Under Armour.
So it probably makes sense to showcase these flagship sporting products. The fleece also gives a nod to the current season.
What’s more interesting from a navigation point of view is the ‘sub-homepage’ of sorts that exists on the Men’s page.
In the shot below you can see basketball shoes are still promoted, but now that handy left-hand side nested menu is included.
Nike Men’s page
I didn’t find the Nike homepage hugely useful for navigation (aside from the header), but it does what I expect it to – surface titbits that I might be interested in clicking on.
There’s perhaps an absence of content, but the content marketing discussion is one for another day.
Nike Men’s page
Adidas – Homepage
Adidas includes some content on its homepage (a video lookbook) alongside category and product suggestions.
Where Adidas differs from Nike is the use of single product suggestions, in the form of the ‘best of Adidas’ carousel shown below, as well as a ‘recently viewed’ carousel (not pictured).
The ‘recently viewed’ carousel appears on almost every page, and it’s certainly a useful navigational aid on the homepage.
Adidas homepage carousel
Like Nike, Adidas goes more category-led on its Men’s and Women’s pages (see below).
There’s not much to choose between the two brands, but Adidas’s extra functionality and content gives it the edge.
Under Armour – Homepage
Similar yet again – hero products and popular categories feature.
Under Armour homepage
Under Armour homepage
Nike – Header menu
Nike’s header menu quickly funnels customers by gender/age (Men, Women, Boys, Girls).
Some featured categories sit alongside Shoes and Clothing, with further options to Shop by Sport and Shop by Brand.
The Boys and Girls menus are nicely split into different age groups (e.g. baby/toddler).
This header menu is simple but completely usable.
Adidas – Header menu
I like the way Adidas uses bold font to flag up the ‘All’ category links that sit at the bottom of each submenu.
Adidas’s header menu is a bit busier, with links to sports and brands at the top level.
As you can see from the two shots below, some of these menus include imagery to represent each category.
The brands menu also contains thumbnail images (see below).
The extent of the Adidas menu and the repetition within it is entirely justified, given I would imagine it is used more than Nike’s header is, to compensate for the lesser ‘jumping off’ ability of Adidas category pages.
Adidas’s menu has a slightly different approach to information architecture (‘many routes in’) but is just as well realised as the Nike menu.
Under Armour – Header menu
Under Armour’s menu is similar to Nike’s. There isn’t an ‘all’ option within the submenus, however, which means users have to figure out they can click on the bold submenu titles.
There’s nothing to gripe at, though, and even though the Kids’ menu doesn’t have age-specific options, Under Armour’s product range is smaller than Nike’s or Adidas’s, so less drilling down is needed.
As Under Armour’s product range expands, the menu will no doubt undergo changes.
Nike – Mobile
There are features that aren’t carried across to Nike’s mobile site (m.Nike). The pictoral category menus I got so excited about are obviously too big to fit on a mobile screen.
However, site search and product filters are easy to use, and the burger menu is not jeopardised on the smaller device.
As I’ve stated in previous articles, the Nike mobile site is quick, with no latency when scrolling through products or using menu.
Simple and useful as ever
Adidas – Mobile
Adidas’s mobile homepage sees the addition of some large category links just below the fold (see below). This seems a smart move, given some may instinctively scroll, rather than heading for the burger menu.
Most of the other navigation functionality works in the same way as desktop. I did have one gripe though – filter and sort buttons, as well as the product layout button, are all quite a bit smaller than Nike’s buttons.
I found these buttons a bit more fiddly to click (more of a thumb end than a thumb pad). Also, once you have hit the filter button, you cannot simply exit the filter menu, but have to reload product selection instead.
Good apart from fiddly buttons and no filter exit
Under Armour – Mobile
Under Armour’s mobile site is quick enough and presented me with no problems until I used the filters.
In the screenshot below I have selected a blue colour filter, but the user interface gives me no indication that I have a filter selected. This is a pretty basic UX failure.
Nike and Adidas solve this by altering the category title from ‘Men’s Shoes’ to ‘Men’s Blue Shoes’.
Applied filters are not highlighted
Nike’s category pages were the standout feature, whereas Under Armour’s site was under cooked in this area.
Adidas was strong throughout, but Nike’s elegance means it has scraped victory.
- Nike: 21.5/25
- Adidas: 21/25
- Under Armour: 16/25