You’ve done all the heavy lifting to lead people to your website. Now that they’re there, however, what do you want them to do—and more importantly, what do they want to do? Navigation on your eCommerce website is just as important as navigation to your eCommerce website.
Today, it’s all about the customer experience. Poor site navigation hurts conversion, but it can get worse than losing a single sale—give customers a bad experience on your site and they’re very likely to become a competitor’s customer instead. More than a third of visitors look at a page’s layout or navigation when they’re visiting a website for the first time; 61.5% of people will leave due to bad navigation alone.
Here are four ways to improve the way people get around your site.
1. Put things where they should be – The internet’s been around a long time now, and visitors have certain expectations about where things should be. Your logo goes upper left, so people know in an instant that they’ve arrived in the right place. The shopping cart goes upper right. So does the account login (if you have one) and the Help/Contact Us feature (even if you also use chatbots). Beneath those or to the left is the primary navigation—doors that lead site visitors to your products, services and important information about your company. From a page flow standpoint, visitors expect a simple explanation of what you offer up top, with more details further down the page. At the bottom, the footer provides a more detailed navigation, and it’s where people can find useful but not critical information, such as the location of your headquarters and links to awards, industry certifications, etc.
2. Use everyday language – Don’t make visitors work too hard to figure out what it is you do, where they need to go to get the information they’re looking for, or how to buy when they’re ready to do so. Jargon, acronyms, cutesy language and overly technical terms are simply unnecessary. Even the most complex products or services can (and should) be explained in ways that everyone understands, while still providing information that’s useful and compelling. While it may be tempting to deviate in the name of a unique customer experience or quirky brand positioning, you may find that unique and quirky ends up as, “That’s annoying. I can’t find anything. I’m out.” Keep the navigational language on your site simple, straightforward and focused on the customer. That said, you’ll need to balance simple with descriptive for search engine optimization (SEO). “Products” and “services” won’t help your SEO rankings because they’re too generic. Figure out the best way to categorize your products and/or services, research ranking keywords, then go from there. Navigation tabs should be relevant to visitors and search engines.
3. Get people where they want to go, fast – Language comes into play here, too. For instance, if you sell shoes for men, women and children, the first navigation options should be intuitive, something along the lines of: Men’s Shoes. Women’s Shoes. Children’s Shoes. That’s clear and unambiguous. This thought also applies to getting people back where they came from—the breadcrumbs that tell them where they are in relation to where they were. It can be very frustrating to navigate a few pages into a site then find you are completely unable to backtrack without starting over on the homepage. Think about the calls to action on the page, too—what is a site visitor likely to want to do at any given point? Again, be straightforward in your language: Request a Demo, Try New Frames, etc.
4. Size and order your navigation appropriately – Studies have shown that items at the beginning and end of a list are easiest to remember. The most important information should be the far-left navigation tab and, if you have a dropdown menu, the topmost item. That seems intuitive, but then again, so does flowing all items from most to least important—and that’s not a good idea. The last item will be easier to recall than those in the middle. As far as the number of navigation tabs goes, limit it to no more than seven. Not only is that good for search engines, but it’s also good for visitors, too. People can store seven items in short-term memory, plus or minus two. That short-term memory advice goes for the dropdowns as well. If you’re going to use one, don’t put more than seven choices in it. You can always go more in-depth on the item-specific web page.
A website that is easy to navigate is more than just nice to have. Once you’ve invited visitors in, be a good host. Visitors make important judgement calls based on how easy it is to get around your site—whether you’re competent, trustworthy, professional or just plain worth the time and effort it takes to get what they want.
Ray Ko has been creating effective merchandising and digital marketing strategies for companies for more than 20 years. Today, he is the senior ecommerce manager for shopPOPdisplays, a leading designer and manufacturer of stock and custom acrylic product.