Your site navigation is one of the most important features of your storefront and overlooking any aspect of it can be catastrophic to your business. If you want to sell more, your customers need to be able to find what they want with ease. Any good store design begins and ends with a positive user experience, which always relies heavily on the simplicity of your navigation.
There are far too many online stores that spend a great deal of time on designing large, beautiful site images, only to offer a sub-par and confusing navigation structure. You can design the most beautiful and effective landing pages for your products, but it won’t matter if customers can’t find them.
With this in mind, here are our top recommendations for improving how people navigate your online store:
1. Simple & Apparent Navigation
Though it seems obvious to say, your navigation must be simple to use, easy to find, and consistent through all pages. Users have to learn how to use every new website they visit, so making your navigation structure the same throughout your site will make it easier for them to understand. Navigation menus should never interfere with other site functionality.
2. Top-Level Menu Items
The pages/categories that are at the top of your navigation structure must be intuitive and obvious. Each of these must be on the same level of importance. Don’t place categories in the top level that make more sense to be subcategories of another category. Your store should be structured like a tree, with the most important branches supporting smaller branches.
3. Clickable Categories
Everything in your navigation menu should be clickable. If you have a category with 3 sub-categories under it, customers should still be able to click to a page for the master category, even if that page only has a short category description and links to the sub categories.
4. Number of 1st and 2nd Level Items
It’s important to limit the number of 1st and 2nd level items in your navigation structure. If there too many, the category will feel too heavy and may be best served by splitting it up.
5. Obvious Labels
Terms that are used in your navigation must be easy to understand and not overlap. If the customer is confused by what category they should look in to find a particular item, then your category labels should be made clearer.
6. Featured Product Display
You can implement a featured product display within a “megamenu”-style navigation to show a good example of what kind of products will be found within a category, and possibly get your customers to the most popular products faster.
7. Intuitive Breadcrumbs
Make sure to include a useful breadcrumb trail on every page on your site to show your current location in the site structure so that users to navigate easily to parent pages. If you have a page that exists in more than one parent category, consider displaying two different breadcrumb paths so that users have a choice when navigating backward through the site structure.
8. Single Navigation Menu
Whenever possible, your site navigation should not compete with any other menus so that users do not get confused. If you have a navigation menu that spans the top of the page, do not have a competing menu on a left sidebar, or another menu on top for items of lesser importance.