I suppose this post is a good prequel to 25 Ways to Improve Your Product Pages. An extremely crucial step in the buying process occurs on the product category page. Basically, product category pages show listings for all products within a certain category, and provide a link to get more detail on the product page. Every product based e-commerce store has them, but not all of them are equally optimized. While the suggestions below vary greatly in their complexity and may not suite all businesses, I hope you’ll find something you can implement on your site.
- More Items Per Page: In the past, it was advantageous to show only a few products per page due to slower dial up connections. With most surfers on DSL now, it makes sense to show more products per page, so users don’t have to constantly click to the next page. Also, be sure to allow them to view more than the preset amount of items.
- AJAX Popup Feature: Many sites are now allowing you to view more product details such as more photos or the description directly on the product listing page. This is a great time saver when used with
AJAX, because it doesn’t require the customer to leave the product category page. Checkout the “Quick Look” feature on Gap.com.
- Add to Cart Button: Don’t underestimate the eagerness of your customers to buy. If they know what they are looking for, many won’t need to go all the way to the product page in order to click add to cart. If possible, put the “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button directly on the product listings page. For an example, see C28′s music pages.
- Sort by Price: Let’s face it. Price is one of the most important factors for most consumers. Give them a way to answer the ubiquitous question, “which one’s the cheapest?” by letting them sort by price.
- Sort by Sale / Clearance: Every customer base has its bargain hunters. Highlight sale or clearance price merchandise by letting them view those items first.
- Sort by Age: Your repeat visitors will greatly appreciate this. The first thing on the repeat customers mind when they hit your site will be “What’s new?”
- Sort by User Ratings: Product peer reviews are becoming increasingly important to online shoppers. Many have begun the expect them. Let people easily see which products are rated the best by other buyers.
- Sort by Best Seller: No one likes to feel they are the first one buying something. Ever heard of this psychological merchandising trick? Make a perfectly stacked pile of widgets and place them in a prime location in a store, and they won’t sell. However, take a few widgets out of the pile, and people think they are selling like hot-cakes and grab one for themselves. All that to say… let your visitors view the top selling products first.
- Filter by Brand: For the brand conscience, let people filter down and eliminate items they don’t want to see. Remember, once they are on your product listing pages, your goal should not be to show them as many products as possible, but rather to filter down to the ones they are interested in.
- Filter by Color/Size/etc: Have you ever shopped the clearance rack at a clothing store? Usually, items are merchandised by size. Or take shopping for paint at a hardware store. Most people walk right to the color family they desire, then decide from there. What your e-business sells will determine what type of filters you should create. View a good example of filtering here.
- “Save These Settings” Feature: Suppose you’re browsing a certain product category on a site. After telling the website you want to see the items sorted by lowest price first with 50 products per page, you’re irritated to find that your settings have been lost when you move to a different product category. To prevent situations like this, save a user’s settings to the most recently selected ones, or allow them to click an option to save them across the whole site.
- Breadcrumb Navigation: It’s easy for visitors to get lost in an endless trail of sub-sub-sub categories. Show them where they are and where they’ve been with cookie crumb navs.
- View All Feature: It’s easiest to compare products when they are all displayed on one page. Give your visitors the option of to ”view all.”
- Unique Content in Title & Meta Tags: One of the most challenging issues with product category pages from an SEO point of view is that they all appear similar and contain little content. If possible, ensure that the title and meta tag content for each page within a product category is unique.
- Click to Any Page Navigation: I can’t stand it when a website only gives you a “previous” and “next” button to click through the product category. Allow visitors to go exactly to the page number they desire by creating hyperlinks to each page number.
- Sorting & Filtering Options at Top and Bottom: It’s important to show your filtering options on both the top and bottom of your category pages. While most sites show them on top, many neglect to feature them for easy access at the bottom of the page as well.
- Eliminate Parameters from URL: Here’s a rule of thumb, if your category urls are so ugly that it’s impossible to remember one, then odds are the search engines won’t remember them either. If you must use a parameter in the url (i.e. ID=123), try to use only one.
- Create SEO Friendly URLs: Better yet, convert url’s like this: http://abc.com/?category1=widget&category2=gadgets to something like http://abc.com/widgets-and-gadgets.html. This can be accomplished by using a re-write engine.
- Highlight New & Sale Merchandise: Include an icon or other indicator to show that an item is on sale or is brand new.
- Show “Real Life” Photos: Showing pics of your products in real life situations brings your pages to life and is much more appealing than a dull list of names and prices.
- Prominent Search Function: People tend to use search as the first resort or the last resort. If they are unable to find what they want from browsing your category pages, they will look for a search option. Make this feature available on every page of your site.
- Make Product Images Clickable: I’m still surprised when I see sites that force you to click on the text of the product name to get to the product page. Make sure the product image is clickable as well.
- Auto Following Nav: Most sites have a left or top navigation structure. However, unless the site uses frames, when the user scrolls down, this navigation will not be accessible. Create a dynamic navigation that follows them down the page. This will ensure they are able easily move to a different category.
- Compare Checkbox: Allow customers to easily compare items by placing a checkbox next to each product listing. For an example of this, see CompUSA’s product categories.
- Need Help Deciding? It’s a well-known fact that having to many products to choose from can be just as bad as not having enough. Help your customers make a decision by linking to a “Help Me Decide” page that compares the benefits of each product type. Again, see the bottom of CompUSA’s product listings for an example.