[Website Navigability Guide] How to get your customers to move around your online shop

I bet this has happened to you.

You’re in a big store (like a supermarket, for example) and:

  • You can’t see any signs to guide you, so you end up walking up and down every single aisle before you find what you’re after.
  • Products are sorted carelessly.
  • The staff doesn’t know which products are or aren’t in stock.

Truly chaotic. 

Eventually, you choose not to leave without buying because there are some products in your cart and you don’t want to just leave them wherever – but you certainly won’t be looking forward to coming back in ever again.

Now, what if that store was your e-commerce shop?

In that case, no one would dedicate even ten minutes of their time to go through all your categories before finding what they’re looking for. That’s especially true for them because leaving an abandoned cart is as simple as closing the tab and never visiting your store again.

And this can happen to you if you don’t help your clients easily find their way around your website.

In other words, it’s what happens if you don’t take navigability into account.

That’s why this post is going to tell you:

  • What website navigability is and how it affects you.
  • The most decisive factors that play a role in website navigability.
  • How to find out if your website is navigable.

Let’s get to it.

👉 What website navigability is (and what happens if you ignore it)

You may have been scared off by such a long word, but no worries – it’s actually quite an easy concept to grasp.

A website’s navigability has to do with how easy it is for the user to move around and find what they’re looking for.

How can you achieve this?

To put it simply, while users are navigating through your website, they must always know:

  1. Which part of the website they’re in.
  2. How to quickly get to the previous page.
  3. How to keep browsing till they find the product they want.

Don’t worry if it’s still unclear to you.

Later in this post we go through all the steps you need to follow to improve navigability in your e-commerce shop.

But before that, what happens if you overlook this aspect of your site?

✅ Website navigability and usability: How they are connected

The bottom line is that you end up losing sales.

And it could be lots of them.

In fact, as we mentioned in another post, this is one of the main causes behind users leaving your website without buying anything.

The reason is that navigability is closely related to two other essential elements of every website: user experience and usability.

This is how these two concepts are related:

Bad navigability = low usability = negative user experience.

And, as you know, a bad user experience implicates:

  • Short dwell time (time on site): Users will leave your page quickly because they don’t feel comfortable navigating through it. This will increase your bounce rate (number of visitors that leave your site after doing nothing) and negatively affect your SEO positioning.
  • More abandoned carts: As we pointed out above, it’s easy for a disappointed user to abandon a cart: they just need to close the browser’s tab (and if they left due to a bad experience, it’ll be harder to recover that cart later on).

To sum up, an e-commerce site with poor navigability will have worse positioning on Google as well as a very low conversion rate because the majority of those few organic visits you’ll get will leave without making a purchase.

As you can see, it’s a very delicate matter.

👉 6 tips to improve the navigability of your e-commerce

You’ve just seen why it’s so important for your online shop to offer a good browsing experience.

But how can you achieve that?

First and foremost, you need to pay attention to the following elements:

✅ 1. Start with your website’s foundation

That is, begin with its internal architecture.

The way your website’s categories and subcategories are interlinked is crucial for users to find it intuitive.

The concept of website architecture is quite vast but, in general terms, it can be summed up into three main points:

  1. The fewer levels, the better: By “levels”, we’re referring to the number of clicks needed to get from the homepage to any other page on your site. The ideal situation is to have three clicks at most. For example, “Home > Reflex cameras > Nikon reflex cameras > Nikon 7500”.
  2. One keyword, one page: Each category, subcategory and product card on your site must be optimized for a different keyword. This will help improve the website’s general positioning and avoid certain SEO-related issues some e-commerce shops may experience (like cannibalization).
  3. Intuitive category order: Following the previous example, users looking for a lens for their Nikon camera expect to find it under the “Lenses” category. That’s why it wouldn’t make sense to include these products in the subcategory “Nikon reflex cameras”.

Defining your website’s structure (bearing in mind that users must find it intuitive) is one of the first steps to be done when creating your online store.

✅ 2. Don’t overload the navigation menu

In order to prevent shoppers from getting lost, lots of e-commerce shops include every category and subcategory in the main menu of their website.

But that can also make navigation more difficult.

Think about it – if we give users too many options all at once, we may make them feel overwhelmed and indecisive. This may, in turn, hinder intuitive browsing.

Our recommendation is for the navigation menu to include only the main categories and the first level of subcategories, as they do on eBay, for example.

But what if a user is looking for something very specific and doesn’t want to navigate through subcategories?

Check what’s next on the list. 😉

✅ 3. Offer your clients a shortcut with an internal search engine

We spoke at length about the importance of having an internal search engine in another post.

To find the product they want, many users head straight to the search bar right after landing on your homepage.

And if the results aren’t what they were expecting, they’ll most likely leave without even browsing at all (which makes the dreaded bounce rate increase).

So make sure to have an internal search engine that meets the needs of your users. And it really needs to be a good one because the one provided with your template could be worse than not having one at all.

By the way, if you want to see for yourself, don’t forget you can try Doofinder for free 30 days.

✅ 4. Add breadcrumbs so they can go back easily

Remember that for your website to be navigable, users must always know “where they are” and “how they can get back to where they were before”.

And breadcrumbs (those links at the top of the page with the subcategories and products of your e-commerce) are the answer to these two questions.

So why are they so useful?

Well, for example, if a user is viewing a product card but wants to go back to the main category, they can do so with just one click and skip the three previous subcategories.

✅ 5. Make calls to specific actions

Your call-to-action (those buttons with a links spread around your website) text must make it clear what will happen if the user clicks on it.

For example:

  • “Add to cart”
  • “Learn more about this new camera”
  • “Contact us”

Users will find these types of messages much more intuitive than something generic like “Click here”.

✅ 6. The design also contributes to navigability

And it’s a decisive factor.

Apart from spreading your brand image, the design also guides the user on how to move around your website.

To this end, there are several aspects to bear in mind:

  • Highlight calls to action: Use a different color or incorporate white space around them so they stand out.
  • Place the page elements in familiar places: For example, most users expect to find the internal search engine of the site in the top-right corner.
  • User your logo as a link to the homepage: Another seemingly small aspect that’s too often taken for granted on many websites.
  • Make links stand out: Use a different color than the rest of the text and bold letters so they can be easily identified at first sight.
  • Use large and descriptive page titles: Let users know they’re in the right category or subcategory.

There are other tricks you can make use of, like highlighting the tab of the main menu when the mouse hovers over it (for example, if they access the “About me” section of your shop, this tab will be displayed in bold letters).

👉 How to find out if your website is navigable

The easiest way to measure your site’s navigability is by making use of analytics.

There are two key points to look into more closely:

  • Your site’s stats: If your dwell time is low or the bounce rate is high on some of your pages, it may be due to a navigation issue.
  • Heat maps: These are very useful tools that provide you with information about how users behave when they visit your website, including how far down they scroll or which elements they click on.

Every time you make changes to your website, you can check the impact they have on its navigability with an A/B test.

These two posts may be of your interest:

👉 Ready to improve your website’s navigability? 

Being navigable is essential for every e-commerce shop.

If your website can’t offer your users a seamless and comfortable browsing experience, they’re quite likely to leave your page and abandon their cart.

However, if you put the tips we’ve given you into practice, no one will get lost while they shop on your e-commerce site. 😉