The Power of Infallible Navigation – Guiding Conversion: Part Two

By Mark Brixton | 10 Oct 2012

In the second article of this two-part series, Mark Brixton from SLI Systems outlines how infallible navigation leads to a better user experience, and in turn, the potential for increased conversion.

Last week, I discussed the importance of site search and navigation operating coherently across a website. Today, I’m moving on to refinement options within a site’s navigation, which allows visitors to narrow down products according to their individual needs.

Refining Content and Layout

There are three elements in a consistent navigation structure that work to provide online retailers with powerful and dynamic navigation tools for consumers. They are the ability to change results order, to refine according to facets, and to switch viewing layouts.

Sort Order

Even though users may prefer to rank products differently, for example by least expensive, best rated or most recent, always propose a default display that is most advantageous to your business. The best practice default options are ‘Most Relevant’ or ‘Most Popular’.


Provide users more options to narrow their site navigation as they travel through the webstore. These options should cater specifically for the kind of product on offer. Category pages can be very broad – such as ‘living room’ for a furniture site. Then, further attributes within ‘living room’ should then be defined, such as refine by ‘sofas’ or ‘coffee tables’.

Caution: if you provide too many refinement options, the number of choices may overwhelm visitors. Always keep the process as simple in its appearance as possible, while still delivering relevant navigation options for the consumer.

Cellarmasters lists product quantities beside the various categories and subcategories.

View and Layout Options

Different users will want to browse products in different ways. It’s recommended that the default viewing mode has products laid out in a grid, while still giving potential customers the ability to switch to a list view. Grid view allows for an optimal number of products to be displayed, hinting at inventory depth and enticing the user to click for conversion. This should always be trialed, though, through multivariate testing to ensure you are delivering the optimal user experience for your visitors.

Advanced Checklist for a Complete Navigation Offering:

  • Allow Full Site Navigation on Every Page – It sounds obvious, but visitors will potentially arrive on your site anywhere. Therefore providing them a full suite of navigation options on every page will keep potential customers from bouncing.
  • Show Products on All Category Pages – This helps to minimise the number of clicks it takes to go from Home to Product and will increase conversions as a result. Try showing the most popular products on top-level category pages.
  • Show Related Searches Below Products on Navigation Pages – This allows users to navigate to similar products in case the one they first arrived at wasn’t quite right.
  • Don’t Forget The Call to Action! – Including ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Buy Now’ buttons on the site navigation page can significantly increase conversions by allowing users to completely skip the product page if they have their heart set on the given item.
  • Use Mega Menus– Mega menus most commonly drop down from the navigation bar after being activated by a click or mouse-hover. Mega menus have been proven to benefit both the retailer and the customer by allowing access to subcategories and even non-product content much easier than using a site navigation link.

Adore Beauty has sorting and layout options set above the fold making navigation comprehensive and simple at the same time.

Designing a great navigation structure is more art than science. There is no definitive way to layout a site for every business and their customers, and this is due to the unique nature of each. Having worked with more than 400 clients, SLI Systems has built up a multitude of tips to help e-commerce professionals make the right choices with their website.

To access more of these tips and see other examples of best practice techniques on site navigation, see SLI Systems’ Big Book of Navigation Tips.

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