E-Commerce Product List Usability: Report & Benchmark

Without the right tools, finding just the right product can be an almost impossible task for the user. E-commerce product lists and their filtering and sorting tools determine how easy or difficult it is for the user to browse the potentially thousands of products in categories and search results.

At Baymard Institute we have therefore spent the last 9 months researching how users browse, filter and evaluate products in e-commerce search- and category-based product lists. Today we release these findings in a 500-page research report and an online benchmark database: E-Commerce Product List Usability.

After benchmarking 50 top grossing US e-commerce sites, it is clear that product lists, filtering and sorting are largely overlooked and misunderstood aspects of the user’s e-commerce experience – despite being the user’s gateway from search results and category pages to the all-important product page. During the test sessions, sites with mediocre product list usability saw abandonment rates of 67-90% while sites with even just a slightly optimized toolset saw just 17-33% abandonments for the very same product finding tasks. This translates into as much as a 4-fold increase in leads.

From testing it’s clear that a balanced approach to product list design, filtering and sorting is required to achieve good product list usability – the chain is no stronger that its weakest link:

  • With the right filters and a clear filtering interface users are able to narrow down product lists with thousands of generic products to only the few items relevant to their unique needs and interests.
  • Solid sorting features enable users to sequence products by the attributes they care about – something that can dramatically speed up the user’s product exploration and selection process.
  • A balanced product list design provides users with a better overview of the products available and help them make a more informed evaluation of which items to engage with (and which they can safely skip).

In benchmarking the product lists of 50 major e-commerce sites the Baymard team has reviewed and annotated 215 product list pages and scored more than 4,500 product list design elements and features. Analyzing this usability dataset revealed that the average site performs mediocre at best, and 36% suffer from so severe usability issues that it’s downright harmful to their users’ ability to find and select products.

The black lines denote the benchmark average with each dot representing the summarized score of a site within that chapter. The dots are color-coded in accordance with their usability performance, with red dots indicating “poor” usability, yellow representing “acceptable”, and green signalling “good”. (Tip: You can also browse an interactive version of this scatterplot graph.)

While the average e-commerce site needs 35 changes to perfect their product list, filtering and sorting experience, few of those changes require major reworks of the existing site. More often it is a matter of relatively simple modifications to existing site features that nonetheless have a significant impact on the end-user experience. Furthermore, because many of the product list tools are the same for both category-based product lists and the search results page, investments tend to benefit both of these navigation patterns.

Over the next couple of months we’ll dive deeper into our findings from this research study (our most extensive study to date) in an article series on product lists. In the meantime consider taking a look at the performance of the product lists of 50 major e-commerce sites. For design inspiration you can browse the 215 page reviews by page type in the public part of the benchmark database.

Lastly, you can learn more about getting full access to all 93 product list design guidelines and the 500-page usability report, along with unrestircted benchmark access, at:

Authored by Baymard Institute on March 3, 2015


User Experience Research, Delivered Weekly

Join 37,000+ UX professionals and get a new UX article every week.

A screenshot of the UX article newsletter