Most of your potential customers will fall into two major groups:
- Those who know what they want to buy.
- Those who want to look around and browse.
You can cater to both these groups by designing effective search capabilities and navigation.
If you are offering only a single product (or a small number of them), search functionality is often superfluous. However, if you have a large number of products, it is very important to have a search function, right on your landing page, that is both highly visible and easy to use.
The average Internet user has a low attention span and does not want to spend a lot of time going through hoops – especially if they know exactly what they are looking for. If your customer wants to buy a specific product, you want to make it as quick and painless as possible for them to find it. Anything else along the way is very rarely delightful and quite often distracting, or worse, off-putting.
While your Search function should, of course, have basic functionality that allows for searching based on keywords and tags, you can also take it a step further by refining suggestions and results. Keep an eye out for start-ups like Elicit which allow for more control over how your users search.
The second type of potential customers are those who only have a vague idea of what they are looking for or they just want to browse through your product range and take their time. What they need is a navigation system that gives them a sense of everything on offer and lets them move easily between product categories. Your navigation should be easy-to-use and consistent throughout the website and allow for intuitively refining and reversing choices.
Here, as with the indexing you will use for the Search function, devising an effective taxonomy is of the utmost importance. You should have a very clear idea about how your different products are organized and grouped, and if that is the way the user thinks about them as well. Coming up with a user-centric taxonomy is key to both effective search and navigation on ecommerce websites.
Designing Search and Navigation functions on your website in a way that parallels the way people actually shop will increase your conversion and AOV (Average Order Value) and reduce your bounce rates.