E-Commerce Navigation UX - 13 Common Pitfalls & Best Practices
How do users perceive your homepage and navigate your categories?
This study on e-commerce homepage and category navigation is the culmination of 2 years worth of usability testing and research, distilled into 61 usability guidelines.
Product finding is key to any e-commerce business – after all, if users can’t find it, they can’t buy it.
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, site taxonomy, category pages, and cross-navigation.
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 61 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.
This page provides you an overview of Baymard’s research specific to Homepage & Category Navigation UX. All of this research is available as part of Baymard Premium.
To accompany the usability test sessions we’ve also benchmarked 60 top-grossing US and European e-commerce sites across the 61 Homepage & Category Navigation usability guidelines. This benchmark has been conducted four times: first in October 2013, then again in 2017, in 2018, and lastly late 2020. This has resulted in a benchmark database with 10,980 homepage and category navigation elements manually reviewed and scored by Baymard’s team of UX researchers, along with more than 5,875 categorized best and worst practice implementation examples from leading e-commerce sites (all categorized and performance verified).
Homepage & Category
Intermediary Category Pages
The 6,168 UX performance scores for 2020 for the benchmarked sites’s navigational is plotted in the interactive scatterplot above.
The Homepage & Category UX performance for the average top-grossing US and European site is “acceptable”, made up of 28% “decent”, 45% “acceptable, 24% “mediocre”. There are almost no sites that perform either exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly here, making for a much more narrow spread compared to other parts of the online shopping expereince. This also means that there are the fewest examples on either end of either massive performance issues, or “State of the Art” implementations.
In comparison, in most of the other e-commerce UX studies we’ve conducted at Baymard Institute the average UX performance only amounts to “mediocre”. For instance, in our Search UX, Product Details Page UX, and Mobile Web UX research themes the average site performance is significantly below acceptable. In other words, Homepage & Category navigation is the part of the user journey within e-commerce where the average site performs the best.
Even given the generally “acceptable” performance of sites, the benchmark dataset shows that there’s still room for improvements when looking within the specific topics of the user experience — in particularly the UX within Category Taxonomy, Main Navigation, and Intermediary Category Pages. The issues identified in these topics cause problems for many sites, and include some “missed opportunities” for the e-commerce industry as a whole. (All areas explored in-depth in our full research catalog.)
This is a sub-set of the full benchmark which includes 63 e-commerce sites.
View our full UX benchmark
Explore annotated design patterns across 672 examples of Homepage & Category Navigation designs and features from leading e-commerce sites, organized into 4 different page types. This is a great way to get inspiration for your own Homepage & Category Navigation design, and to get a feel for emerging trends in e-commerce navigation.
We’ve released a small subset of the Premium research finding on Checkout UX and form field usability for free in these articles:
All 61 Homepage & Category Navigation UX research findings are available as part of Baymard Premium, and are divided into the following 5 topics (200+ pages of research findings in total):
Get full access to all our Homepage & Category UX research reports, benchmarks, and page designs previewed here, along with our complete 550+ guidelines for Search, Product Listing, Product Details Page, Checkout, Accounts & Self-Service, and Mobile E-Commerce. Utilize our 71,000+ hours of UX research to improve your Homepage & Category user experience and to document your UX decisions.
What are the 15 most important changes you can make to your homepage and category design?
We will put together a detailed 40-page report of the 15 most important usability improvements you can make to your e-commerce homepage design and category taxonomy.
Read more UX research organized by industry or theme, or get an overview of our entire Research Catalog.