Refinements allow visitors to quickly narrow down their product selections as they travel through your site. This is one of the best ways (aside from using the search box) that visitors express to you exactly what they want.

The right use of refinements can make the shopping journey easy and intuitive. From broad category pages, you can break down choices into more specific subcategories. On a furniture site, for example, shoppers might start with the Living Room category then navigate to Sofa and Armchairs, Coffee and Side Tables or Living Room Lighting, depending on what they need.

In addition, providing refinements for brand, price, style and color can help shoppers pinpoint the products they had in mind. In my next two blog posts I will outline some practical ways refinements can help you improve your site navigation.

Don’t Show Too Many Refinements

Instead of showing every possible refinement (which can overwhelm shoppers), examine your analytics to see which refinements are used the most and which are hardly used at all. For example, do you really need the option to refine jeans by the number of pockets? If it is useful to your visitors, then show this option only when it’s relevant. A simple list of refinements versus a convoluted one increases your chances of improving your conversion rates.

Only Show Refinements with Results

Show relevant refinements for each category and make sure each refinement option contains results. You may be tempted to provide general refinements across your site for all category pages, but this can lead to a frustrating shopping experience. For example, you wouldn’t want to provide a refine-by-color option if an item is only available in one hue.

SurfStitch_SLIShow the Number of Products for Each Refinement

By indicating the number of products for each refinement, shoppers quickly understand how many results they can expect to find under each option. This guides them to consider other refinements if necessary and assures them they have seen all possible products.

Provide Different Ways of Ranking Products

Let visitors easily re-rank the criteria for how products are shown. Shoppers might want to view products by best sellers, highest rated, new arrivals, most expensive or least expensive. As a default, show products in order of most relevant or most popular. Once a visitor chooses a new order, remember the preference to spare him or her the hassle and frustration of re-ranking products on each category page.

For more tips on how to improve your site navigation, download our Big Book of Navigation Tips.