Ecommerce Navigation: 5 Best Practices to Improve Your Navigation UX

eCommerce Navigation: 5 Best Practices To Improve Your Navigation UX

The navigation of your eCommerce site is how users find and most importantly, purchase what they’re looking for. On average, visitors spend about 23% of their attention on the header section of your website, which includes your navigation. According to Shopify, from the time a user lands on your site, you have about 10 seconds to convince them to stay. The user experience of your site navigation can make or break a visitor’s buying decision and their perception of your brand. In this article, we’ll discuss 5 best practices to improve the eCommerce navigation user experience.

eCommerce navigation: What is UX and why is it important?

UX design, or user experience design, is the process of designing a product or system in a way that provides a great experience for its users from start to finish. Here’s the definition of user experience from the Nielsen Norman Group: User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

You want your users to have an positive experience with your product or service, and UX is a crucial part of that. If your customers have a great experience with your brand, they’re going to be more likely to use your product or service again and again, building customer loyalty. Good UX can clearly define your customers’ journey and lead them on a path that results in conversions for your business. If you want to learn more about setting up a UX design process, check out this guide.

Now here are five ways to improve the UX for your eCommerce navigation.

1. Make your menu easy to scan

Potential customers need to be able to quickly scan your product menu and categorization. According to the Baymard Institute, overcategorization is the single most important category-based navigational issue for eCommerce sites. Poor categorization can be even more devastating than site abandonments — it may lead to permanent brand damage.

Here are a few tips to make your menu easy to read, scan, and understand:

  • Stay away from long vertical drop-down menus that go below the fold. If a user has to scroll down to see your full navigation menu, it’s too long.
  • Break your product categories into small chunks that are ordered logically.
  • Utilize parent categories and subcategories to categorize your products.
  • Use typography, icons, and visual hierarchy to help users easily scan your menu.

Example: Mack Weldon

The navigation menu fits entirely above the fold and the product categories are clearly defined by parent categories and subcategories.

2. Use Widely Accepted Iconography

Icons are a great way to communicate something in a quick, visual way. The problem happens when users don’t recognize an icon. Before using an icon, think about the ways it may be used on other sites or in other apps. If it isn’t immediately clear what will happen when a user clicks your icon, you’re going to lose potential customers. Universally recognized icons include a magnifying glass for search, an envelope for email, and a printer icon for printing.

Example: Rothy’s

Rothy’s uses a magnifying glass for search, basket for cart, and human profile for account.

3. Give Users Visual Cues on Links

When a user hovers or clicks on a link in your navigation, the text should change its appearance. This best practice may seem obvious, but CXL found many sites that violated this guideline. Users expect visual cues on websites so they know whether an element is actionable. On your navigation menu, give users visual cues so they know what is clickable and what is not. Common visual cues when hovering over a link include a changed background, changed text color, or an added/removed underline.

Example: True Botanicals

When a user hovers over an item on the menu, the text changes color.

4. Make Your Logo Clickable

People expect a site’s logo to redirect to the homepage. It’s become an industry standard. If your logo doesn’t take users back to your homepage, your users are likely going to become confused and frustrated. Some users may look for a home button, but it’s easier and more intuitive for most people if your logo takes users back to the home page.

Example: Four Sigmatic

If you click the Four Sigmatic logo on any page of the website, it will redirect you back to the homepage.

5. Include thematic resources and guides in the main navigation

We may think that every user who visits our site knows exactly what they want to purchase, but that’s not true. Not everyone knows what they want. New users in particular might not be familiar with your product catalog or your brand. Some users need more guidance, like the type of help they would receive from a sales associate in a store. If your navigation doesn’t offer users this kind of help, you’re missing an opportunity.

As the Baymard Institute recommends: Consider including thematic resources and guides in the main navigation. Guides and resources help users figure out what they are looking for and narrow down their choices. The resources also work as inspiration to purchase other products.

Example: Sephora

You can see the “Help me choose” column on the far right which includes links to quizzes, guides, and other resources to help users figure out what product they want or need.

eCommerce Navigation: Conclusion

These five best practices are just a few of the many ways to optimize the UX of your navigation. Overall, the goal of a navigation system is to make give your customers confidence when searching your site to find what they’re looking for. Clear, concise, and attractive navigation is going to increase customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

About Anatta

Anatta is a premier eCommerce partner that provides turnkey digital product teams for iconic DTC brands including Rothy’s, Athletic Greens, Molekule, and Four Sigmatic. Anatta’s team of certified NNG and Baymard designers helps brands create engaging user experiences that attract customers and increase revenue. Contact Anatta to learn more.


Baymard Institute: E-Commerce Navigation UX – 13 Common Pitfalls & Best Practices

CXL Ecommerce Guidelines: Navigation

Shopify: Ecommerce Navigation: Getting People to Find and Buy More Products