How to Create Ecommerce Navigation That Increases Sales When it comes to website design, navigation is often an afterthought, but it's actually beyond vital.

By Jonathan Riff

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

More than any other aspect of a site, you need customers to be able to quickly find what they came for, while not overwhelming them with an overly complex structure. There is, on average, a less than two-second window of opportunity wherein a visitor determines whether or not they are going to scroll or click. Any longer, and you lose their interest and focus, and risk an exit.

Simply put, website visitors aren't going to buy what they cannot quickly find, so an engaging and ultra-clear navigational structure is coin of the realm. But how to assemble yours?

Build a sales-focused header menu

Many ecommerce sites will jam every possible navigation option into the header menu, causing chaos and disorganization. The best approach is to have one that's simple to understand and navigate, and is created solely based on driving sales. For example, an apparel line might want to have just two options — "Men's" and "Women's"— on its header navigation. From there, the user can click and be taken to a doorway page with more options. The sooner a visitor makes that first commitment to view another page, the better. You can always use sub-navigation to organize a store if you have multiple product categories; the key is to keep things organized, and intuitive. Some great examples include Best Buy's and Fashion Nova's.

Related: Ecommerce: The Essential Components Your Site Needs to Turn Visitors Into Buying Customers

Create a separate customer-service header option

You always want to convert visitors as quickly as possible towards the intent of making a purchase, while also making sure that you take care of those looking for help as quickly as possible. Creating a separate customer service option (a simple "Help" or "Support" button) in header navigation ensures that those with queries or an immediate customer service need are taken care of. On the resulting page, you can include live chat, contact details and a customer support submission and ticketing system. The lesson here is that the sooner you address customer service issues, the less likelihood there is of receiving negative feedback and creating a dissatisfied customer.

Include a search bar on top

Ecommerce stores with multiple products will want to include a search bar in the top header, because many visitors will turn to the search function rather than trying to find what they are looking for through standard navigation. For sites with a large number of products built on Shopify, I highly recommend installing the Smart Search & Filter app. It takes the standard search function to the next level and provides a much better display and user experience.

Related: Build an Ecommerce Store on Shopify with Help From This Bootcamp

Move all non-essential navigation options to the footer

There are so many pages on an ecommerce store's website that including them all in primary header navigation will likely create a mess. Remember, the need is to be focused on sales, so emphasize product categories. Relocate everything not related to driving sales to the bottom. This can include links to order tracking pages, returns and exchange information, "About" pages, affiliate program information, size guides, gift cards, social media profiles, terms and conditions, privacy policies, etc.

Most consumers know to look at the footer for these types of resources and links. Keeping them there helps to keep your visitors focused on products; if they need to find the other information, they will scroll. The takeaway is to avoid creating distractions and clutter that can impact the purchase conversion flow.

Jonathan Riff

Principal Brand Architect & Experience Designer

Jonathan Riff is the founder of Captains & Cowboys, a boutique digital agency bringing a human-centered philosophy to everything it creates.

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