Many of the websites we have usability tested are e-commerce sites containing multiple product types. The products on these sites often include items such as clothing and shoes for the family along with house wares and other home goods. In each of these cases, the female in the household was considered the primary shopper for the family for these types of items and therefore the main audience for the retailer.
Retail sites characteristically have a consistent way to display products. The typical browsing pattern we noticed was:
- Select a category or department
- Select a sub-category
- View small product images on the sub-category (or category) page
- Click on individual images or product titles to load a product page
In watching females browse online in this way, a striking similarity emerged: As soon as these shoppers opened a page displaying multiple small product images, at least 90% of them immediately looked for a way to see all the items on the page in order to quickly find the item or item type they were searching for. On many sites, this was achieved by selecting a ‘View All’ button or text link. After seeing this pattern on a few retailer sites, our analyst teams began probing to determine if this was something unique to the usability lab environment or if this was standard shopping procedure (SSP). Guess what? It’s SSP. Typical comments we have heard from female users as they reviewed retail sites include, “I typically go to ‘view all’. I don’t like clicking through pages.” and “A ‘view all’ button would make life easier for me. It would take me forever to go though all these pages!”
Recognizing this has some interesting implications for any online retailer. We have seen that female shoppers in particular not only desire to scan every item in a particular category on a single page, but also wish for similar products to be grouped together within that single page. For example, female users expect to see dresses of similar lengths to be displayed adjacent to one another as they scroll down the page. They do not want the long dresses to be randomly placed among the knee-length dresses because then they have to scroll up and down to compare like items. Since we have seen few apparel sites with a product compare feature, the correct placement of products within category and sub-category pages becomes very important to provide the user with what she needs to have a successful site visit.
Based on our research and observations, here are a few necessities to remember when structuring your category and sub-category pages for retail sites:
- Establish ‘View All’ functionality.
- Verify the ‘View All’ button or link is easily accessible.
- Default subsequent results pages to the view all option, if the shopper clicks ‘View All’ once
- Group similar products adjacent to one another within the page to allow for easy, visual comparisons.