EXCERPT: Without a clear path to products and content and logical choices for narrowing searches, visitors will likely decide that shopping a site is not worth their time and energy. That or they may conclude that the site doesn't sell the product they're looking for and leave in search of one that does. In either case, this results in unnecessary website abandonment.
Poor navigation is without a doubt one of the leading causes of website abandonment. Without a clear path to products and content and logical choices for narrowing searches, visitors will likely decide that shopping a site is not worth their time and energy. That or they may conclude that the site doesn't sell the product they're looking for and leave in search of one that does. In either case, this results in unnecessary website abandonment.
Fortunately for website owners, there are many straightforward tactics that can be implemented to make site navigation better and prevent abandonment by those visitors who become lost. Consider the following design and navigation tips when creating a satisfying and productive shopping environment for your customers.
Allow Visitors to Navigate Your Site from Any Page
It's not unheard of for visitors to become stuck after they arrive on a site from search engines or from links displayed on other websites. In most cases, this happens when website owners focus more on improving landing page conversions than they do on addressing the navigation needs of their users. To correct this, I recommend that owners add their site's primary navigation scheme to every page, and, when possible, eliminate users from having to visit the homepage in order to find their way.
Only Show Refinements That Have Results
Arriving on a page with no product or content is one way website visitors can become frustrated. Typically, this problem occurs when a website first launches or when an owner is in the midst of adding new products, services, or information to the site. Owners will often create their new pages and navigation links ahead of time, and add content days or weeks later when it is received. While being prepared is certainly a good thing, upsetting visitors with broken links or pages without content is not.
Display Breadcrumb Trails
As visitors browse a site, they often need to know how they got to the page they're on, and how they can get back to an earlier starting point. I recommend that website owners show their visitors the refinements they've applied or page's they've previously visited in order to get to the page they are currently on. Doing so will make it easy for them to move up the navigational ladder without having to click the back button on their browser.
Offer Viewing Options for Browsing
No two website visitors are really alike. Different visitors will have different ideas as to how they want to see a site's content or products. For this reason, I recommend that website owners choose a default method such as a grid or list view for displaying information, but also provide visitors with an option to change it for one that works best for them. Grid views let people see more content above the fold with bigger images and fewer details, while list views show smaller images but contain more details. A hybrid view combines these benefits, offering larger images and more product details.
Offer Refinements on Ratings and Reviews
More and more website owners are embedding user ratings and reviews onto their sites and for good reason too. Traditionally, owners list their ratings and reviews in order as received, and not give any consideration to how site visitors will want to view them. This is a big mistake. Instead, I recommend owners provide refinement options that allow users to view reviews by pros, cons and best uses, and sort by newest, oldest, highest rated or most helpful. In doing so, owners will go a long way in reducing their visitor's research time, as well as the number of steps needed to make a purchase.
Show Color Refinements Using Color Palettes
In addition to helping visitors choose a color option, color palettes add visual appeal to a site's product navigation and take up less space on the page. This is a clear win-win scenario. Furthermore, visitors respond more quickly to a display of actual colors than the names of colors in text. For example, using with a color palette, website owners can remove any confusion that often arises from using "artistic" color names such "southwest sunset" - do they mean yellow, orange or something in between?
Use Banners to Enhance Category Pages
Banners help give website visitors a visual confirmation of their location on a website. For example, a banner with images of microwaves, toasters, and refrigerators will likely indicate to visitors that they're now shopping the "kitchen appliances" section and not "outdoor furniture". Additionally, banners also help highlight sales, special promotions and popular results relating to the section, as well as shipping specials and related product information.
Organize Product and Content Links in a Way That Makes Sense
While it might make sense for website owners to want to show their higher margin products first, visitors will likely have a different opinion as to how pages and navigation should be displayed. When in-differences such as this occur, website visitors may become annoyed or worse yet, assume the site is without what they're looking for and leave. Therefore, I recommend that owners spend an adequate amount of time learning the needs and expectations of their target audience, and then organize product and content accordingly.
In the end, a successful website experience is about being able to address the questions and concerns of each visitor, and to do so as easily and quickly as possible. By implementing the design and navigation changes I've outlined above, and by testing various options to see which ones work best, website owners can improve their site and lower their abandonment rating.