Displaying Search Results: Grid View or List View?

One of the testing ideas covered in the webinar Best Ecommerce Tests — Case Studies & Practical Advice to Raise Conversions Before the Holidays is grid view vs. list view in search results.

We know from eye-tracking and search engine behavior studies that, when presented with a list of search results, people often click the first result – paying attention to the top 3 or so. Rarely do folks click to the next page (past the 10th result).

Online stores may present search results in list view or grid view (grid view is more common on category result pages). Some e-stores offer both views for visitors to toggle between (like Home Depot, Walmart and QVC).

But which layout performs the best? Which view should you show by default?

There are many questions testing can answer:

Which view should you show by default?
Which view encourages more product exploration?
Which brings more customer satisfaction (is more “usable”?)
Which leads to the customer selecting an appropriate product and ultimately making a purchase?
Are customers conditioned by search engine results to click the top result most often?
Are they more likely to consider all the available products when presented in list view?

Measuring Success of Your Search Page Test

Testing alone does you no good unless you’re clear on what you deem success. Search results are not responsible for closing the sale – they are a step in the selling process. To understand which view “wins,” I suggest you measure the following:

1. Search page abandonment

Understand your “bounce” rates (leaving page in under 5-10 seconds, depending on your analytics configuration) and exit rates (leaving the page, or leaving your site altogether) for list view vs. grid view.

2. Search result click through by position at each view

SLI Systems tested list view against grid view for one of their customers and found that clicks were more evenly distributed among result positions in grid view than list view:

You may use this information to “searchandise” and present your highest profit margin matches first for certain terms, knowing that the customer is most likely to click on the first 1-3 results. You should also pay attention to…

3. Conversion rates

If folks only consider the first few results in list view – are these results relevant enough to encourage purchase? Or does grid view outperform?

4. Revenue per sale and contribution margin per sale

Which view ultimately moves your highest priced and highest margin products?

This is not just something you can test quantitatively (with a Google Website Optimizer or Omniture Test and Target tool), but qualitatively with real users.

Testing Creativity

Moosejaw has another approach to displaying category and search results: the ability to toggle between regular view and “Custy Reviews View”:

Would showing Custy Reviews View by default lead to higher click through to products? Testing can reveal whether folks even notice they have the ability to switch, and whether customer review snippets are more persuasive than the default details.

Given customers’ preference for social content, this may be a very effective tactic for many retailers. Dare to test it out?

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8 Responses to “Displaying Search Results: Grid View or List View?”

  1. Bob says:

    Not just for search results, but for product catalogs in general, we just did an internal case study about this and it truly depends on the type of product you’re selling. Grid views are predominantly used on sites selling merchandise when the visual appearance matters to the customer (ie, clothing). List views are used when the text is important like a model number or more technical info is what matters (ie, printer ink, Computer RAM).

  2. Nice to see some data (SLI Systems graph) on how big difference in click distribution actually is between grid and list view.

    Regarding giving the option to switch view: a qualitative usability study I’ve made pointed in the direction that either users didn’t see the purpose of changing view or simply ignored the feature. Meaning you risk drawing attention from more useful features (like search result sorting) if you waste you screen real estate on having it.

  3. Oh I love Custy Reviews View!

  4. [...] View or List View?” for results pages is a common struggle. As Linda Bustos points out on her “Get Elastic” blog, “When presented with a list of search results, people often click the first result – [...]

  5. [...] View or List View?” for results pages is a common struggle. As Linda Bustos points out on her “Get Elastic” blog, “When presented with a list of search results, people often click the first result – [...]

  6. [...] you can test the default order of search results or number of search results to show. You can even test whether product recommendations increases [...]

  7. Eatcity says:

    Great to read about Product displays and human trends, I think because naturally we read from left to right, top to bottom (English language), by nature our brains will be tempted to follow the norm,
    I would not easily read the item third down a list yet will easily do so in a grid view that holds three in a row

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