Guest Post by Sasha Butkovich of Ecommerce Outtakes

There are plenty of potential errors to be made in ecommerce navigation, and you’ve probably seen them all at one point or another in your own online shopping experiences. But what are the biggest “Don’ts” when it comes to navigation? Here, we’re taking a look at the top 3 mistakes we commonly come across in ecommerce sites. Avoiding these errors is a key step toward creating a great experience for online shoppers.

1. Confusing or insufficient filters and refinements

Some shoppers come to a site knowing exactly what they want, while others come to browse. Every ecommerce site should be able to cater to both shopping styles. One huge factor that can really help (or hurt) in this area is the filtering or refinement options. Making sure there are enough clear and relevant options to help customer narrow down their results is key! Unfortunately, this is a feature that’s very common for ecommerce sites to get wrong.

Take a look at this example from Capezio, a well-known brand in dance shoes and apparel. Throughout the pages of this ecommerce store, there’s a huge lack of filters. For instance, here’s the ballet shoes page. The seasoned dancer will likely come to this page knowing what they need, but for a new dance mom or dancer, this would be a frustrating experience. There aren’t any filtering or sorting menus anywhere! You can’t filter out child or adult, men’s or women’s, size, or even price. Also, many of these shoes are available in several colors, but you can’t tell from this page. Having those filters and refinements would definitely help in an instance when a parent might need to find black ballet shoes for their child’s recital, for example. Without filtering options, shoppers may become overwhelmed and leave the site.



2. Non-intuitive design

It goes without saying that nobody wants a boring website, and that ecommerce sites should be unique expressions of the brand. That’s definitely a good thing, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of complicating the navigation. Site design should be intuitive for the shopper. It should be easy, almost instinctive, for them to figure out how to get around and find what they’re looking for. Many sites adhere to a basic format (category tabs along the top, filters and refinements on the left, etc.) which has become habitual for online shoppers. This doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the formula, but bear in mind the impact it can have on the user experience!

Here’s the website for a German shoe company called Trippen. Right from the home page, it’s hard to see where you’re supposed to go. In fact, if I hadn’t already known that this was an ecommerce site, I might not have even figured out that I can purchase things here. I happened to hover my mouse over the little “Welcome!” link in the upper right corner, and then I could see the menu of shopping options. It’s not a great idea to keep your store hidden if you want people to buy things! Make it easy and intuitive.



3. Inaccurate search function

Browsing is one thing, but a helpful site search is just as, if not more, important. When shoppers come to your ecommerce site with a product in mind, the search should help them get to it as quickly as possible. Using Rich Auto Complete within the search function is a great feature. By offering up suggestions for keywords and products, a search like this can definitely increase the speed and accuracy of the search process. Some ecommerce sites however are still not there yet, and it’s a shame.

Take for example clothing retailer Forever 21. Although the search function on this site does suggest keywords as you type, the results aren’t very clear. Here, I searched for “red jeans,” and the first 10 results that appeared weren’t even red. Many of them might have a red color option on the product page, but it might be confusing for a shopper not to see the image of the item in the color they’re searching for. It takes more time to click through each product to find out if they come in red, and some people may not want to invest that time. Even providing swatches of the other available colors on this results page would be a step in the right direction. If the search function provided more accurate results, Forever 21 might generate more sales.

forever 21

These three errors are some of the most common mistakes in ecommerce, but you can avoid them. Keep filters and refinement options relevant, feature a design that’s intuitive and simple, and make the search function as accurate as possible. If you have that, your ecommerce site is well on its way to great, user-friendly navigation.

Sasha Butkovich is a contributor to the Ecommerce Outtakes blog, which aims to improve usability and the ecommerce experience one blog post at a time. To read ecommerce tips and news, and to submit your own site for a free review, visit