Keys to Building an Effective Ecommerce Navigation SystemMay 162014
Whether your menu is vertical, horizontal, has images, has dropdowns, has many or few items you want it to give your customers immediate access to purchase your goods. There are so many options and sometimes you might find yourself with a massive menu system that does not convert users to buyers. There are two key elements that can aide you in making your choices : knowing your market, the user’s experience.
Know Your Market
Having a website is the beginning steps to truly creating a global business and the scope and size of your project is very important. You might start with tennis shoes and later build out to sportswear. So think about how you will grow and the size of your business. There are also different categories of merchants for example if you are an adult merchant website you might be considered high risk and may have specific assurances you need to provide your users and your payment processor right up front( terms and agreements etc).
In the global web market you will have more competition and that can provide you with a competitive advantage (for example most industries have one strong forerunner who has an effective website). Companies spend millions of dollars on marketing and their website development is a big part of that. It is critical that you utilize the market research that has already been done. The best part about that research is it available for free to you in the shape of their websites.
Consider for example the larger category eccommerce. What does Amazon.com do, that you think is effective? What can you learn from them? A basic principle in their menu system is simplicity. Instead of a bulky menu Amazon uses a clickable (notice that once you click the menu it stays down) and a search bar. Of course you may not have as many products as Amazon and if you are selling a service neither of these options may apply but do the work and check out the million dollar designs. You might also do a Google search specifically for your eccommerce industry. Also look at your competitors sites. Ask yourself a few questions here like: who are my competitors, what is unique about my business, what can I sell about my brand that they don’t have...etc.
Don’t make the user think. No page or application or purchase should be more than one click away and you want the user to understand clearly and quickly what kind of eccommerce website they have entered and what they can buy. Here you want to completely get rid of any questions a new user might have when they come to your website. So be clear concise and direct it will payoff in long run. What questions would someone ask when they landed on your website make sure you put that in your menu (keep in mind those pages will both answer the question and lead to a purchase or goods or services).
In fact if you can hone down your entire menu system into four categories you feel must be present on your site you will find that those pages will get more traffic and you can focus on those pages rather spread them thin. This just answers the very basic question why and how. Let’s look at the where.
If your clients are English speaking you will want to think from left to right. So the eyes will start on the left capture the user with your key features here. Horizontal menus are great but are only effective if they can clearly be read and demonstrate a want. Trying out different items with market research or by trial runs will help polish the where.
You also want to make sure that people can easily find your website through a search engine. Standard seo has mandated a lot of text and big menus as a practice but that is not always necessary. Make sure you have a sitemap available for the search engines to crawl but you don’t have to have everything contained in your menu system. If you spread yourself too thin you may find that you have scattered search engine results. Google’s most recent penguin update has led to social networking likes gaining importance. Consider adding social networking to your menu system and in your additional navigation areas. Navigation items(both images and text) themselves can also contain meta data and it is important to add this where possible.
Trial and Error
The last and most critical consideration is to get feedback from your users. Get a market group to view your site and give you feedback. Keep yourself open to change. Even if you have menu system that works you can always improve it based upon your users and market.