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Blog Design & UI/UX

Increase Your Online Sales With Better Site Navigation (Part 1)

Alex Deckard
January 20, 2021 |

Don’t Let Poor Site Navigation be the Crux of Your Online Sales Funnel

Your site’s main navigation is one of the most critical pieces of UX, yet is often one of the most neglected aspects of a new build or redesign. While it’s fun to focus on elements such as the home page, the reality is that the difference between good, bad, and great experiences lies in the details found in the more mundane aspects of a site interface, such as the navigation.

Bad navigation leads to both higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates, which in the world of eCommerce equals missed revenue. However, the good news is, that implementing an easy-to-use, intuitive menu & catalog structure/IA (information architecture) is one of the best opportunities to enhance user experience and doesn’t require a major technical upgrade or wholescale redesign. This isn’t to say it’s easy but well worth the consideration.

If you’ve ever caught yourself or colleagues saying one of the following – then it’s probably time you revisit your on-site navigation:

“Our customers primarily use the search”
“No one navigates departments on Amazon”
“Our customers understand and are accustomed to where everything is”
“We need a mega menu”

Fact or Fiction: A Good Search Will Solve Your Navigation Problems

Thanks to Amazon, there is a popular myth that as long as you have a good on-site search, you needn’t stress about your navigation. The truth is, Amazon is a monolith that has invested millions upon millions of dollars into its catalog and site search, so what works within the context of Amazon isn’t likely to yield the same results for most imitators. For more on this, read Search Is Not Enough: Synergy Between Navigation and Search via the Nielson Norman Group.

Notwithstanding the above, there is additional data that would suggest that most on-site search isn’t as impactful as we might suppose. In a study, digital consultant Gerry McGovern found that 70% of users start interacting with a site through the main navigation (as opposed to site search or through other links on the page). In another study by UIE, it was found that 20% of participants chose to navigate exclusively through links, compared to 0% who navigated exclusively through search. Additionally, people are less inclined to use site search on a mobile or touch device which requires tapping out a search query.

Furthermore, it’s a fundamental principle of design that recognition is more powerful than recall – meaning that it is easier to recognize something rather than remember it. It’s why “what should we eat for dinner?” is a much harder question than “pizza or tacos?” In UX terms, site search increases the cognitive load on a user, whereas familiar navigation patterns and links are easier for our brains to process. Of course, this isn’t to say that site search isn’t an important feature, simply that we must not neglect site navigation in favor of search.

Fact or Fiction: The Fewer Clicks the Better

Another commonly held belief is that if a user has to click more than three times to get where they are going they will abandon the task, ie; The 3-Click Rule. We’ve written in the past on how reducing clicks can actually increase the effort on part of the user (Reduce Effort, Not Clicks, For a Better UX), which is ultimately counter to our end-goal as UX designers. One enabler of such a fallacy is the mega menu.

As with on-site search, when employed correctly, a mega menu can greatly enhance your site’s usability and offer vast improvements over traditional dropdown menus. However, similar to search, when used as a “one-size-fits-all” approach it can wreak great havoc on user experience.

With great power comes great responsibility, and often, when mega menus are implemented, there is little thought to how the categories within the menu are grouped or styled. This leads to information overload, and thus increases the burden of the user. See the example below for this can negatively affect scanability.

In conclusion, we’ve established the important role your site navigation plays in your online store’s sales funnel, as well as a couple of common pain points. In our next post on the subject, we will be outlining in more detail a few best practices, as well as things to avoid when thinking through your site’s navigation – so in the meantime, please sign-up (below) to be notified when that is posted or check back on the DCKAP blog soon!

Coming Soon: Navigation Best Practices Part 2 – Do’s & Dont’s

Alex Deckard

Alex has over a decade working as a web & UX designer with a strong e-commerce background. In his work, he takes pride in his ability to effectively communicate and relate design decisions to clients, as well as values, first and foremost, the client’s trust. When not behind a computer, Alex can be found roaming the vast expanse of the American West with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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