Navigation is key

unsplash.com/@rocinante_11

Did you ever feel frustrated while navigating a website or got so annoyed while shopping online that you left the shop altogether? Well, you’re not alone. Designing navigation can be tricky, and there are a lot of pitfalls you can fall into.

In this article, I’d like to inform you about a few mistakes I encountered at work as an online shop manager and learned that they are more common than I thought.

One widespread mistake online shop managers make is putting their customers into silos. This happens when product types with the same attributes are shared in different categories. The user is forced to click back and forth into various categories to see all the options. The good news is that this case is easily solved by implementing product types as filters. By doing so, your users can create their own product list and navigate more efficiently through your website.

Navigations can come in different styles — wide & flat or narrow & deep. Both have pros and cons. As UX Designers often say: it depends on what is the best solution for your case. The navigation must fit your needs and your user’s needs. In general, research has shown that people tend to get overwhelmed easily when the content is not divided into manageable chunks. It is not recommended to use more than ten subcategories. In addition, Hick’s law says that “increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time logarithmically.”

Too many choices can be overwhelming (unsplash.com/@ketut-subiyanto)

Also, too many categories can cause users not to read all the options; on the other hand, fewer options can be too vague for users to understand what they are about or what to find there. Don’t go overboard with both styles. It is also worth mentioning that “the magical number 7 does not apply to navigation systems”. This is simply because users don’t have to memorize what’s in the navigation.

Sometimes it is unavoidable to list many items on a menu, for example, on a large e-commerce website which sells various goods. But you have to consider these two criteria: The items have to be in alphabetical order, and the user must be familiar with the words to know exactly what the terms mean. Users can now efficiently scan the list because they know it is an ordered list. This circumstance is called Hick-Hyman law.

Also, you have to consider which device your customer will use on your site. An extensive list of categories is hard to get through on a desktop, but it’s even more complex on a mobile device. This is vital as much traffic is happening on mobile devices.

This sums up only a small list of things I came across in my work as an online shop manager. Please check out the following links for more information about the topic:

Flat vs. Deep Website Hierarchies (nngroup.com)

How Many Items in a Navigation Menu? — YouTube

Hick’s Law: Designing Long Menu Lists — YouTube

baymard.com/blog/ecommerce-navigation-best-practice

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Freya

Freya

e-commerce | content strategy | photography