Layered Navigation – “To Use or Not to Use”?

Apologies for the bastardisation of the Great Bard’s most famous soliloquy – but the use of layered (or guided as its derivants are also known) navigation can cause a sea of troubles if not wisely used.

What is Layered Navigation?

Layered navigation allows customers to filter down a product catalogue based on a number of different facets, for instance price, brand, product type. Layered navigation works in concert with the more rigid and hierarchical ‘Drop Down Menu’ navigation.

Pros and Cons

Layered navigation can be a double edged sword – it can provide a wonderful way for savvy customers to find what they are looking for fast – It can also add customer confusion and create a designer’s nightmare!

What are the benefits?

  • Allows customers to choose how they segment a retail catalogue
  • Allows customers to drill down to the products they want quickly – by being presented with the main options for each decision making factor

Do I Need Layered Navigation? – Questions to ask

How web savvy is my target customer? If your target customer is not likely to be a seasoned internet user then you should minimise the amount of layered navigation you use, as for those who are not used to navigating in this manner, it can be a turn off.
Does my product catalogue need layered navigation? Some product catalogues have a large number of quite similar products – which can make it difficult for customers to quickly identify the exact product they need – a prime candidate for layered navigation. Other catalogues will be either quite limited, or quite diverse in nature – in which case layered navigation has less value.
What facets are key to the customer’s decision making process? If you can’t answer this then you should think long and hard about whether to implement a layered navigation system. Layered navigation has to follow the customers buying process to have any value at all!

Conclusions

Layered Navigation is best used sparingly – make sure you keep the buying process as simple as you can for the customer. Only if there is difficulty for customers in understanding or finding the product they need should it be the prime navigational method.
Flint Technology has developed modules for the Magento platform that allow store owners to refine and simplify their layered navigation and allow a more intuitive customer experience –

For more information have a look at the Flint Module Store.

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