6 Creative Ideas for Filtered Navigation

Whether your customers are hunters (looking for something very specific), browsers (just poking around your site) or “howsers” (hunting for something but must browse to find the right product) — filtered navigation can be very useful to your site visitors. Filtered navigation:

  • Helps hunters use navigation menus to locate a product rather than rely on search
  • Gives browsers an idea of what you carry
  • Helps howsers understand a product’s important attributes or uses

There are infinite ways to present filtered navigation and they are often product-specific. You’ll find different filter options in the Cell Phones and Service category than the Home Audio categories of Amazon.com, for example. The following are examples of filtered navigation (also called faceted navigation) that I found interesting:

Filter by Form

Action Envelope and Like.com use icons to illustrate the sub-category which is helpful for English as second language or those who are not familiar with industry jargon like “remittance” or “hobo”. Showing shapes makes menus far more usable in these cases.

Off-topic, but Action Envelope also has a shop by use page which is very helpful.

Filter by Fit

MyShape matches clothes to different body shapes, and Eddie Bauer lets you filter by how you want the garment to fit you.

If you need a narrow or wide fitting shoe, Endless lets you find shoes available in special widths and sizes:

Filter by Problem

Taking a solutions-approach to selling, several cosmetics shops allow you to filter by “concern” (a kinder way of saying “problem”):

Left to right: Sephora, Mensbizshop.com, Skinstore.com

And Land’s End lets you filter swimsuits by “anxiety zone” (again, a slighly less brash way of saying “problem area”):

Filter by Customer Review

Reviews can be a powerful way to learn what attributes matter to customers. For example, GPS shoppers may want the unit for driving or hiking. They may be rural or urban dwellers. They may be dissatisfied with their current unit and want to find products that have faster route calculations or more reliable satellite service.

Buzzillions (by Power Reviews) does a great job collecting consumer reviews from a number of sites and presenting useful filter options:

Filter by Color

Target shows that filter by color is not just for fashion retailers:

Shop by color is particularly helpful since most category pages use one default color in the thumbnail image. If a customer is dead-set on a particular color, the ability to hone in on products available in that color is very important.

Filters for a Tough Economy

Fingerhut‘s tagline is “Now You Can” (have something you really can’t afford?), and as such allows customers to make smaller monthly payments instead of all up front:

Altrec lets you filter by % off:

How do you decide what product filters are useful?

1. Scope out your competitors’ filters.
2. Read customer reviews, are there common keywords or features customers express are important?
3. Read expert reviews. They often influence customer purchase decisions. For example, I read a buyer’s guide for portable GPS recommending the 2 essential features are text-to-speech and a 4.3″ display. In my mind, I’ve eliminated any unit without these attributes, and would prefer to filter GPS results to products that fit that criteria.
4. Use your keyword referral reports and search logs. How do customers search for your product? What product attributes do they search for? Example: “nickel-free earrings”
5. Apply filters to your Google Analytics to expose exact keyword referrals. This shows you the “long tail” of search and helps you understand what people find important in products.
6. Use the Google Keyword Tool to find what your keyword referral reports may not have shown you.

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12 Responses to “6 Creative Ideas for Filtered Navigation”

  1. These are all really good ideas. The range can allow site owners to study analytics and decide which features would work best for their site. With all of these features, the key distinction is that they are personalized and are likely to make customers feel appreciative of the fact that the website seems to care about their individual needs and wants. That is surely the key to success online.

  2. “There are infinite ways to present filtered navigation and they are often product-specific. You’ll find different filter options in the Cell Phones and Service category than the Home Audio categories of Amazon.com, for example.”

    I think this is critical… and it’s where FutureShop.com totally drops the ball. If you’re searching for a video game, you can’t search by type of game. Rather, you’re offered the same criteria you get for electronics. Frustrating.

  3. Stacia says:

    I think all but one (customer review) of your examples are actually categories for the products being sold. I work for an ecommerce company, and that’s often how colors, sizes, etc. are managed. The filtering is just leveraging the categories (which can also give you navigation).

  4. Great post, as always, Linda.

    Even as one who looks for the search box before the page has finished loading I find the techniques disclosed here very cool – but not too cool to replace the search box.

    Equally, the search box is no substitute for these techniques either.

    Brian Katz – VKI

  5. Anna says:

    when it comes to internet shopping i believe the search box and the categories are equally as important. As they cater to two very different kinds of shoppers. The first knows what they want and want to find it with a few clicks as possible, this is where the search box in invaluable. The second kind of viewer doesn’t know what they are looking for, they are open to suggestions which is exactly what the different categories offer. I myself always do this, ill fancy browsing to see if i can come across something i didn’t realise i was looking for, its the foraging instinct in all of us. So to be a good shop i believe having both is definitely the way forward, it needs to be as user friendly as possible though because it is too faffy viewers will be leaving your site in favour of one that

  6. Neckties says:

    Nice post. Multiple filtered navigations are very important for customers. If they couldn’t find what they want quickly, they will leave the site.

  7. Ralph says:

    Great post!

    However be carefull using filters: always make sure that an empty search result is impossible! So always use guided navigation/search.

  8. Since you metioned about price filters, I think Amazon price filters also deserve a mention here…Amazon provides flexibility to provide your own price range for the filters….Check out left nav on below page…


  9. [...] retailers can benefit from adding more relevant filters based on important product attributes. This can improve conversion rates as you help customers hone [...]

  10. Oleg says:

    Then visiting the site, visitor want to find answer or product right away. Sometimes you get “lucky” lending a visitor to your landing page, but your landing page might not have the information visitor was looking for. So, installing all sorts of filters will help keep visitor from “bouncing back”. I recommend displaying filtering option at the top of your “landing page“.

  11. MartinLe says:

    I think that Amazon’s whole navigational system is a great example of well thought out nav filtering. I actually prefer it to ebay.
    I also agree with Ralph in that it is important to still implement the search bar with filters so as cover all facets of your clients searching/browsing

  12. [...] of retailers, and is an example of how helpful a visual search tool can be as an alternative to other forms of filtered navigation. Clicking on any product’s Visual Search button re-sorts a page to show items that most [...]

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