Removing This Design Element Improved CTR by 27%

Search filters are a critical UX feature to ecommerce sites. The larger your product assortment, the more necessary they are.

But how you display the features may be helping or hurting your conversion rates.

This week’s WhichTestWon feature test sought to discover if removing a “refine your search” toolbar above results on the UK Tool Centre website would increase click through rate. The hypothesis being the filter was a distraction, while pushing clickable results below the fold.



Despite the search page having more than 100 product results, the test version without the filter improved click through by 27%. While conversion rate was not reported, the significant increase in click through widens the funnel for conversion.

I myself found this result surprising, as I tend to take advantage of filters. But making decisions on what you like personally without testing is risky. What matters is what the majority of your visitors prefer, and what influences positive behaviors on your site.

If you use horizontal filters, this is a great testing idea, whether text-based or image-based.

But the same concept applies to the “banners” and featured merchandising zones so common on search and category pages.

Challenge your love affair with “hero shots”

Graphic subcategory presentation is another animal. It pushes down product results but may be effective — another candidate for testing.

If you’re using in-category cross-selling as above, make sure you test it. It may be distracting as it interrupts the user’s task of finding a product matching the search or category term. The design element may also act as a roadblock to the eyes that discourages exploration below it. It may appear as the end of search results if the user’s fold cuts across it.

It’s not just about the fold, it’s about meeting customer expectations. When you click a category link, do you expect a list of product or a maze like this?

Only a small portion of this category page’s real estate is actual product results.

Relevance matters. When a user selects a brand category, why show a competing brand?

Have your cake and eat it to? Why not test an expand/collapse implementation, like Orange Mobile?

Note tht the click through or conversion differential in such a test could also be due to page load speed. Some filter features increase load time, which increases abandonment.

The UK Tool Centre example is not intended to show that no horizontal feature is a best practice. The takeaway is to test this feature on your site if you currently use it. You may be surprised at the improvement of removing what is believed to be a useful usability feature.

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8 Responses to “Removing This Design Element Improved CTR by 27%”

  1. Without the conversion rate, this result doesn’t say nothing useful

    Of course they has more clicks without the filter, you are seeing more products is you don’t have a filter!!!

    • I would like to know ultimate conversion rate and revenue per visitor as well, the case only reported click through. However, the KPI for a page test will not always be conversion rate (sale). If you are testing for the effectiveness of a feature such as search filters, your conversion goal is actually CTR.

      The test was aiming to see if the filter helped narrow down the large number of choices to help the customer hone in on the product most suitable. They wanted to know if the filter was helping or hurting the product discovery process. In this test, it was found that users were more likely to scan the full page of results than interact with the filter.

  2. Tim says:

    The increase in click-through at The UK Tool Centre doesn’t necessarily surprise me. If the user is less able to filter down to their one desired product they have to “pogo” in and out of more products until they find the one they actually want – wouldn’t this increase the click-through?

    You mention “conversion rate” wasn’t reported – by that do you mean purchase rates? I can easily believe the final purchase rate wasn’t affected or declined, I’d only be surprised if the purchase rate went up without the filter.

    Why? People still want/need their product but without the filters they had to work harder to find it (more click-throughs). WITH the filters, the product was found more easily (fewer click-throughs).

    Click-through might have gone up, but did satisfaction?

  3. I wasn’t sure from the article if there was any effect pushing filters into the vertical navigation to the left or right of the results?

    We’ve done a lot of work in the holiday rentals industry where every site does exactly that. It’s become a de facto standard but I’d love to know if we’re all missing a trick?

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Hi Richard, that would be a different test, as the degree of distraction and pushing results below the fold would be different than horizontal. If anyone has a case study, please share in the comments.

  4. some dude says:

    Just a hunch, but could it be that people interested in browsing will provide a higher CTR when there are no filters present, while people who know what they want to buy would be better served with filters so you can convert them quickly?

    I think the horizontal filtering option may help provide the best of both worlds; non-intrusive for the window shopper/browser, tools for quick check-out available to someone that knows why they are on the site and what they are looking for.

  5. Interesting how the results of these tests are often counter-intuitive!

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