User Experience

The Best Navigation for Ecommerce Sites

Consumers in 2022 face an avalanche of data. We’re all forced to make countless daily decisions, however minor.

Thus an easy-to-navigate ecommerce site, one that simplifies decision-making, is the first step to conversions. Visitors need to access information without getting overwhelmed. They need to determine instantly whether to continue down the funnel.

For ecommerce sites, that funnel is often two, three, or even four navigation menus, depending on the amount of content. Each facilitates decisions.

Micro-decisions

When setting up menus, it’s essential to understand how shoppers make micro-decisions, which are typically a variation of three subconscious questions:

  • What is this?
  • Who is this for?
  • What do I get?

These questions happen instantaneously. You’ve likely visited websites that aren’t clear about question one and then closed that tab and moved on. Once our brain confirms valuable information, we make a micro-decision of whether to move to the next step.

Navigation needs to be straightforward to those who see value in your site. If a visitor decides to proceed, the navigation must wisely guide her to the ultimate destination: a purchase of your products.

Navigation Options

Scrolling is a natural behavior. Social media platforms have taught us to scroll infinitely.

Hence many sites now opt for sticky menus that remain at the top as visitors scroll down, exposing them constantly to the main navigation.

But, importantly, don’t add every search option to that top navigation. It will overwhelm and exhaust visitors’ brains. A better option is three or four navigation bars throughout the website. Multiple navigation bars, each with a unique purpose, allow visitors to make micro-decisions.

An example is BestBuy.com. Its top menu lists the company’s preferred navigation options: “Top Deals,” “Deal of the Day,” Totaltech Membership,” “Credit Cards,” and “Gift Cards.”

A second menu, on the left, is accessible from the top hamburger icon (three parallel lines). It’s much more detailed, containing 17 product “departments.” Visitors who click that icon seek more info. They’ve decided to dig deeper, and their brains expect more data.

Screenshot of Best Buy's home page with side menu open.

Best Buy’s second menu, on the left, contains 17 product categories — “Shop by Department.”

A third Best Buy menu, in the footer, is comprehensive — a compilation of all navigation links grouped in sections. Having reached the bottom, visitors have been exposed to additional info. Their brains are ready for more.

Screenshot of Best Buy's footer menu.

Best Buy’s footer menu is comprehensive, with all content organized into sections.

More Sales

In short, website navigation should mimic the behavior of our brains. We seek easily understood info. We avoid difficult decisions. Guiding shoppers down that path — from simple to detailed — leads to more sales.

Barbara Carneiro

Barbara Carneiro

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