E-Commerce Navigation UX and Common Pitfalls & Best Practices

This article is copied from: https://baymard.com/blog/ecommerce-navigation-best-practice


  • Our UX benchmark of 73 large e-commerce websites shows that “Category Navigation” performs decent overall
  • However, there’s significant room for improvements — particularly within the topic of “Category Taxonomy”
  • This article will cover 13 commonly observed e-commerce navigation UX issues, and show the “navigation best practices” we’ve verified to perform the best with end-users.

Designing a user-friendly e-commerce category navigation requires solid information architecture, systematic labeling and hierarchy, and curated intermediary category pages — and that’s just the beginning.

Our Homepage & Category e-commerce benchmark contains 10,900+ Homepage and Category UX elements that have been manually reviewed and scored by Baymard’s team of UX researchers, with an additional 3,100 best practice and worst practice examples from the 73+ top-grossing e-commerce sites in the US and Europe (performance verified).

In this article, we’ll show you a portion of our large-scale Baymard Premium UX research dataset to provide you with:

  • the current state of “E-Commerce Category Navigation UX”,
  • outline 13 common navigation UX pitfalls applicable to most e-commerce sites, and
  • show you the 13 navigation best practices we’ve verified to perform the best with end-users in our large-scale usability testing.

The Current State of E-Commerce Navigation UX

For this analysis we’ve summarized the 6,100+ “Homepage & Category” usability scores across 3 of the 4 “Homepage & Category” topics and plotted the 73 benchmarked sites across these in the scatterplot above. (See our separate article on “Homepage UX”.) Each dot, therefore, represents the summarized UX score of one site across 5–17 guidelines within that respective topic of the homepage and category navigational experience. The top row is the total Desktop Web “Category Navigation” UX performance.

The “Category Navigation” UX performance for the average top-grossing US and European e-commerce site is decent, made up of 14% good, 38% decent, and 34% mediocre performances. There are no sites that perform either exceptionally well and few that perform exceptionally poorly here, making for a much more narrow spread compared to other themes. This also means that there are the fewest examples on either end of either massive performance issues or “State of the Art” implementations.

Despite the generally decent performance of sites, this benchmark dataset shows that there’s significant need for improvements when looking within the topics of “Category Taxonomy”, “Main Navigation”, and “Intermediary Category Pages”. The issues identified in these 3 topics cause problems for many sites, and include some “missed opportunities” for the e-commerce industry as a whole.

Below we’ll discuss the UX performance and show 13 general navigation pitfalls, each with best practice examples from our large-scale testing. The article is divided into these 3 themes:

Note that this is an analysis of the average E-Commerce UX performance across 73 top-grossing US and European sites. When analyzing a specific site there are nearly always a handful of critical UX issues that are site specific. This is the case even when we conduct UX audits for Fortune 500 companies.

Category Taxonomy

When it comes to the “Category Taxonomy” the average e-commerce site runs into significant issues, with 50% of sites performing mediocre or poorly — reversing positive trends observed in 2018 when only 6% of benchmarked sites had an overall poorly performing category taxonomy.

Indeed, “Category Taxonomy” is by far the weakest of all of the “Homepage & Category” subareas.

Overcategorization remains the single most important category-based navigational issue for the average e-commerce site.

The repercussions of a poor category taxonomy can be even more devastating than immediate site abandonments — it may lead to permanent brand damage.

In particular, there are 5 UX issues e-commerce sites get wrong when it comes to “Category Taxonomy”.


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