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Homepage & Category Usability

Exploring the customer’s product finding experience

After months of user testing and research, the most in-depth usability study on how to best design and structure your e-commerce homepage and category navigation is ready.

We’ve tested how users navigate and find products on 19 of the leading e-commerce sites and boiled the research findings down to 79 actionable guidelines that will improve the usability of your homepage and product categories.

Homepage & Category Usability Report
“It's a fantastic, fantastic study. Good stuff, guys!”

Vitaly Friedman, Editor in Chief of Smashing Magazine

  1. 79 research-based design guidelines divided into 7 categories.
  2. 80 user quotes illustrating how users think when using the homepage and category navigation.
  3. 366 images from the test sessions for detailed insights on usability issues and solutions.
  4. 7 case studies of real life examples illustrating what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Online review tool for assessing your own site(s) across the 79 usability guidelines.
  6. 348 pages optimized for print exploring the user’s product finding experience.
  7. A convenient checklist handy for implementation and reference.
  8. Benchmark database with annotated usability reviews of the top 50 sites.

Slide through the report

“Baymard helps us help our customers find the products they are looking for.”

Paul Irvine, Web Services Manager at Imagination Technologies

If they can’t find it, they can’t buy it

Product finding is key to any e-commerce business – after all, in order to buy a product your customers must be able to find the product first.

This original usability study focuses on how users navigate, find and select products on e-commerce sites. A group of users age 21-56 were recruited to test 19 of the leading e-commerce websites across 8 different verticals (mass merchants, apparel, electronics, jewelry, home decoration, toys & gifts, specialty equipment, and health & drugs). The tested pages and design elements include the homepage, category navigation, sub-categories, and product lists.

Throughout the test sessions, the subjects would repeatedly abandon sites because they were unable to find the products they were looking for. Indeed, the subjects encountered 900+ usability-related issues, and this is despite testing multi-million-dollar sites. All of these usability issues have been distilled into 79 concise usability guidelines that will help you design a user-friendly homepage and category structure so your customers can find the products they’re looking for.

Tested sites: Amazon, Best Buy, Blue Nile, Chemist Direct, Drugstore.com, eBags, GILT, GoOutdoors, H&M, IKEA, Macy’s, Newegg, Pixmania, Pottery Barn, REI, Tesco, Toys’R’Us, The Entertainer, Zappos.

“A great report with many important findings and insights. A must-read for every web design professional.”

Jan Jursa, curator of IATV and the MobX Conference

Table of contents

  1. Introduction 7 pages
  2. Guideline categories:
    1. Homepage 38 pages 13 guidelines on homepage structure, design, carousels, personalization and promotions
    2. Category Taxonomy 41 pages 13 guidelines on e-commerce category structure, information architecture, catalog breadth, and category naming
    3. Main Navigation 48 pages 16 guidelines on e-commerce navigation design, mega drop-down menus, visual hierarchy, and courtesy navigation
    4. Sub-Category Pages 35 pages 7 guidelines on inspirational paths, featured products, and curated content
    5. Product Lists 75 pages 13 guidelines on grid and list view, pagination, items per page, sorting design and filtering features
    6. Site-Wide Layout 27 pages 10 guidelines on newsletter dialogs, ad positioning, footer, and return policy links
    7. Cross-Navigation & -Selling 16 pages 7 guidelines on scope jumping, breadcrumbs, cross- and up-selling, and content sections
    8. Case Studies 12 reviews Including Walmart, Nordstrom, HP, Staples, Macy’s, Amazon, Gap, and Sears
  3. Checklist for all 79 guidelines 5 pages
  4. Methodology, Authors, etc. 5 pages
“Does your #ecommerce site suffer from the usability problems Baymard Institute's study uncovered?”

SAP Retail (via Twitter)

Benchmark & Review Tool

Based on the findings from the research study we’ve benchmarked the homepage, menus, category structure, sub-category pages and product list, of the top 50 grossing e-commerce sites in the US. This provides you with a comprehensive benchmark database with 240 pages reviewed, 790 screenshots, and 1,800+ examples of the 79 usability guidelines.

The benchmark database is fully integrated with the report and comes bundled as part of the purchase, providing you with 50 case studies from the top e-commerce sites, acting as examples and inspiration on how to implement each of the 79 guidelines in the report.

Furthermore the benchmark database provides a tool for you to review your own (or your clients’) site and compare it directly against the top 50 e-commerce sites.

“All you need to know about navigation & categories for a successful e-commerce website.”

Experience Solutions (via Twitter)

Compared to other industry reports

eConsultancy E-Commerce Best Practice Baymard Institute E-Commerce Homepage & Category Usability Nielsen Norman Group E-Commerce User Experience
Pages: 99 pages 348 pages 2,140 pages
Guidelines: - 79 guidelines 874 guidelines
Source: Author’s thoughts User testing User testing
Benchmark: No Yes, 50 sites reviewed No
Review tool: No Yes, interactive review tool No
Price: $695 $150 $996
Refund: No Yes, 14 days full refund No
“We recommend it, especially if you plan on re-developing your website – and you want to make sure your web company is doing something near best practice.”

Richard Keeves, President of Western Australian Internet Association

Get your report now

Get your copy of this report instantly delivered as a PDF file for $150, and start improving your homepage and category design today at just $1.9 per actionable guideline.

Buy Report & Benchmark

Refund policy: We stand by our research and offer you a full 14 days “no questions asked” refund. If you’re not satisfied, simply e-mail us at christian@baymard.com for a full refund.

Report details

  • Title: E-Commerce Homepage & Category Usability
  • Authors: Jamie Appleseed, Christian Holst
  • ISBN: 978-87-994365-3-8
  • Published: October 2013
  • Delivery: Instant PDF-download (DRM-free), 105mb
  • Content: 348 pages, 79 guidelines

Benchmark details

The benchmark database has four components:

  • Review: Interactive checklist for reviewing your own sites
  • Guidelines: 79 usability guidelines with examples from the 50 benchmarked sites
  • Site reviews: Case studies of the top 50 grossing e-commerce sites
  • Page types: Navigate the homepage and category designs by type of page

Report license

The report and Baymard Pro account are intended for internal use - for you and your team.

You and your team are allowed to both print and digitally distribute the report to employees within your own organization (i.e. within the same legal entity), as long as it is not accessible to anyone outside it.

We trust our customers, so all reports we sell are unrestricted – this means that no DRM or other restrictive technologies are used.


Research is conducted and published by Baymard Institute, and written by its two founders:

  • Christian Holst – User experience engineer with a master's degree from the Technical University of Denmark. He has worked with designing user experiences in both the hearing aid and the credit card industry before co-founding Baymard Institute 2009.
  • Jamie Appleseed – Has a decade's worth of work experience designing and coding websites, with a focus on user experience. He has worked as lead developer on numerous web projects at web agency Spoiled Milk before co-founding Baymard Institute in 2009.

Baymard Institute’s research is used by:


“It's a fantastic, fantastic study. Good stuff, guys!


“Does your #ecommerce site suffer from the usability problems Baymard Institute's study uncovered? http://t.co/QTx4U5NrWl RT @boxuk”

“I can not tell you how much help your benchmark studies have been for our company, e-commerce and UX teams. We have used and continue to use these reports for baseline benchmarks as we build test protocols or eye tracking scripts etc in lab.

“We recommend it, especially if you plan on re-developing your website – and you want to make sure your web company is doing something near best practice.

“These reports are fabulous. The content is exactly what our team has been looking for, and so much more! Extremely helpful, thank you!

“I have found the M-Commerce and E-Commerce reports very useful, thank you!


“New e-commerce usability report c/o @Baymard helps us help our customers find the products they are looking for: http://t.co/6dRtNcUeuG”

“It is immensely valuable having a thorough, independent study to help validate my work and in particular, help facilitate buy-off from stakeholders. Baymard has quickly become one of my most trusted resources for the UX/UI field.


“All you need to know about navigation & categories for a successful e-commerce website http://t.co/EqdqtTltWm Via @Baymard”


“Quite excited to read this report covering e-commerce taxonomy: http://t.co/jCgZyAmt5H ht @benkappler #ia”

“I love the information that you guys provide and have bought a couple of reports. Love them.


“A recent study sheds insights into best practices for eComs: http://t.co/bKaCw0nEQl #Design #Websites http://t.co/KHUzhUKuVg”

“A great report with many important findings and insights. A must-read for every web design professional.

See all 13 citations
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