One of the key components of a well-designed store is the way that products are organized. A store's layout can be used to guide shoppers through the space, highlight certain products, and create a path that encourages impulse buys.
Think of IKEA store layouts, the company employs a host of psychological devices, innovative design choices, and merchandising techniques to create a unique experience that’s hard to resist.
For online businesses, product categories and subcategories are analogous to a physical store's layout. The way that you organize your products will have a direct impact on the shopper's journey and whether or not they make a purchase.
Creating an effective category page on your website can be a make-or-break for your business. Not only do they provide structure and hierarchy for your content, but they’re also one of the first places customers will look to help them find what they’re looking for.
What are site categories and subcategories?
Categories are the main divisions of your site. For example, on an online clothing store, categories might include Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s Clothing. Subcategories help shoppers drill down to the specific products they want to buy.
For example, under the category of Men’s Clothing, you might have subcategories for shirts, pants, outerwear, and accessories. If a shopper is looking for a new pair of jeans, they can click on the “Pants” subcategory to see all of the different styles that are available.
Think of category and subcategory pages as your store's layout funnel - they guide shoppers from the broadest view of what you have to offer (the category page) down to a focused selection of products (the subcategory pages).
Why are site category pages important?
Category pages are important because they serve as the backbone of your website’s organization and navigation. They help visitors find what they’re looking for, and can also be a valuable tool for search engine optimization (SEO).
The way that you design and organize your categories and subcategories can have a big impact on both the shopper's experience and your bottom line.
Get it right and shoppers will easily find the products they want to buy, which leads to more sales. Get it wrong and shoppers will become frustrated, leading them to leave without buying anything.
Types of Category Pages
Broadly speaking, there are 3 types of category pages:
- Classic: The classic category page is a simple list of links to subcategories and/or products. Usually, these are just added to the sidebar.
- Intermediary: This is a landing page style category without product listings. It may include some images, text, and other information to help shoppers understand what’s available in that category.
- Blended: Blended category pages feature aspects of both the above styles. Blended pages are usually incorporated by breaking up blocks of context to include both product listings and other content.
When done right, category pages can:
- Help improve usability & UX
A well-designed category page makes it easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for, which leads to a better experience on your site.
For example, this category page from Uniqlo uses minimal images and clear text to give shoppers a better idea of what they’ll find in each subcategory.
- Boost SEO
Great category structures give search engines a better idea of what your site is about, and how the different pages on your site are related. A clear site structure will make it easier for search engines to index your content, and in turn boost your site’s SEO rankings.
- Offer a space for marketing
Category pages can also be used as a way to showcase special promotions, highlight certain products, or cross-sell complementary items.
ASOS, for example, uses its category pages to show off new arrivals,themes, festive sales, and special collaborations with high fashion designers.
- Encourage discovery & Increase the chance of conversion
Prominent category pages can also encourage shoppers to browse, leading them to discover new products that they may not have otherwise considered. This is especially true if you use a blended or intermediary style category page that includes both subcategories and products.
Best Practices for creating optimal category pages
A good category page is one that is well-organized, informative, and easy to navigate. It should also be relevant to the products or services you offer. If you want shoppers to find the products they’re looking for quickly and easily, it’s important to put some thought into your category and subcategory design.
Here are a few things you can do to leverage your site category and subcategory pages for higher sales:
1. Get your navigation right
Keep in mind that navigation and product discovery is the main purpose of category pages.
When designing your navigation, keep things simple. Store or category hierarchy should be clear - use clear text labels for each category and subcategory, and consider using drop-down menus to help shoppers drill down to the products they want.
A sure shot way to lose a customer is to make them work too hard to find what they're looking for. So keep your category and subcategory names short, clear, and easy
Also, speed is crucial – The page should load quickly. There’s no point in creating elaborate pages that customers close even before seeing them, because the site is loading too slow.
2. Optimize URL and metadata for search engines
Remember that category pages are a key part of your site’s overall architecture and can have a big impact on your SEO. This is because they help search engines understand the relationship between different pages on your site.
To ensure that category pages are properly indexed by search engines, it’s important to use keyword-rich titles and descriptions. You should also pay attention to the URL structure of your category pages. Using short, clear URLs is always the best practice.
3. Educate and inform about products
Your category page isn’t just for navigation, it’s free marketing space.
Dynamic content like user reviews, articles, image galleries, video tutorials, or customer testimonials provide visitors and are perfect for building a unique site and informing customers about new launches and keeping them engaged with the brand.
For example the “Shop the Look section” in Shopify stores.
4. Use card sorting
Card sorting is a great UX design experiment to optimize site architecture. The point of card sorting is to see how people would naturally organize your products.
To do this, you create cards for each product (or group of products) and then ask shoppers to sort them into categories. Once you have the results, you can finetune the organization of your category pages.
5. Breadcrumb navigation
As the name suggests, breadcrumbing is a navigation aid that lets users know where they are on a website, and how to get back to previous pages.
It’s especially useful for ecommerce sites because it gives shoppers an easy way to keep track of their location within the store hierarchy.
6. Introduce Urgency
Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a real psychological phenomenon. You can use it to your advantage by creating a sense of urgency on your category pages.
One way to do this is by using countdown timers for special promotions or sales. This lets shoppers know that they need to act fast if they want to take advantage of the deal.
Another way to create urgency is by showing low stock levels for popular products. This tells shoppers that they need to buy now if they don’t want to miss out. Amazon does this best.
7. Make it snappy
Your category pages should be optimized for speed – get people what they want as soon as you can. Improving your filtering system, making the search simple and prominent, and being clear about stock levels are all ways you can make your category pages snappier.
8. Utilize calls-to-action (CTAs)
Remember, your category page is a ramp to your products. So make the most of it by including calls-to-action (CTAs) on your category pages.
This could be a “Shop Now” button that links to a subcategory page, an invitation to sign up for your newsletter, or just a direct link to your product. The goal is to make the next step attractive and easy to take.
Your store's design is important, and how you organize your products is a key part of that design. Designing site category and subcategory pages thoughtfully can help you control the shopper's journey, improve usability, increase conversions and sales, and even improve your store's SEO. Use the tips in this article to get started.
A key part of proper store design is the search experience you provide to your customers. And what better way to ensure a cutting-edge search experience than with Zevi, a powerful AI-powered site search engine? Zevi can understand the search intent of your customers, and offers a wide range of benefits that can help your business improve its revenues. Check out our Shopify app, or reach out to us for a free trial!