UX Information Architecture for E-commerce Website: A User-Friendly Guide 📈
To increase traffic and revenue, eCommerce stores need a solid information architecture.
Information Architecture for E-commerce Websites has a massive impact on your traffic and revenue. The better architect for your user flows and mental models, the better the conversions.
I’ve worked with a global eCommerce brand, I know that information architecture (IA) plays a vital role in user experience for traffic and revenue.
Here’s the thing.
IA helps in shaping the overall structure and layout of your e-commerce website, enabling your customers to easily navigate through various product categories, pages and functionalities.
This is not easy with 1000s of SKUs, 100s of pieces of content, and endless internal links.
- Shoving pages in the navigation
- Killing page rank
- Losing revenue
- Letting competitors win
When designing a user-friendly information architecture for an e-commerce website, it’s important to consider the users’ mental models, as well as your brand’s goals.
Think about it, presenting relevant product information clearly and concisely, will for sure impact the users’ purchasing decisions, which is the goal, right?
A well-planned navigation system not only allows customers to find their desired products easily but also encourages them to explore further and potentially discover new content inventory to add to their shopping carts… Bingo!
You’re not just improving the user experience, applying the principles of IA to your e-commerce website can also increase;
- customer retention
- Also, massively helps your search engine visibility!
By providing a logical and intuitive structure, you make it easier for search engines to index and rank your website, thereby attracting more potential customers.
So, is it worth building out your website architecture? Yes! It’s worth investing time and effort into designing an effective IA for your online store.
UX Site Structure and Navigation 🧠
I can’t stress the importance of having a well-organised site structure and easy-to-use navigation. This not only makes it easier for users to browse and find products, but it also improves search engine optimisation (SEO).
Increased traffic and conversions (use micro-conversions in eCommerce), which is the goal, with me?
In this section, I’ll discuss two important aspects of site structure and navigation: Site Organisation and Hierarchical Sitemap.
Site Organisation & Navigation Design ✍️
When it comes to organising an e-commerce website, I focus on creating clear and logical categories for your products and targeted relevant keywords.
This allows users to quickly access the products they are looking for and creates an enjoyable/easier browsing experience.
In real-time, we DO NOT want customers to be confused… If they do, your competitor will ease that confusion and get the sale.
Here’s a breakdown of how I approach site organisation (a key component of SEO):
- I group similar products, making it easier for users to find related items.
- I use descriptive category names that users easily understand.
- I try to match customer intent journeys.
Increased traffic and conversions.
Ecommerce Hierarchical Sitemap 🕸️
Another important aspect of site structure and navigation is having a well-planned hierarchical sitemap. I map an e-commerce store’s hierarchy with topical relevance. To create my hierarchical sitemap, I:
- Start with the homepage at the top of the hierarchy
- List all the main topical relevance sections of the website, followed by their respective sub-sections
- Pay close attention to the balance of the hierarchy, ensuring that important pages are easily accessible
This process helps me visualise the overall structure of your website, making it easier to identify any potential issues and optimise the user experience.
Labelling content clusters is not easy for large eCommerce stores. Faceted navigations, 100s of collections, and 1000s of products complicate this.
This is I love to break it down into segments.
By focusing on these two important aspects of site structure and navigation, I’ve managed to improve usability and increase user satisfaction on my e-commerce website. Maintaining a well-organised site and clear navigation are essential for keeping customers engaged and encouraging them to make a purchase.
Ecommerce Content Structure For Product Categories and Filters
Defining eCommerce Categories
When I design an e-commerce website, it’s important to define the product categories clearly. This helps customers find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently. The internet moves fast and so do customers. Efficiency is one of your most critical components.
Another thing, search bars are awesome, but, customers should not have to keep relying on this.
So, I begin by identifying the main types of products being sold and then breaking them down into relevant sub-categories. For example, if the website focuses on clothing, the main categories may include Men, Women, and Children. Sub-categories within Men could be Shirts, Jeans, Shoes, etc.
To make it easy for users to navigate, I ensure the category structure is intuitive and logical. This helps to reduce cognitive load and improve their overall shopping experience.
A solid architecture process is the foundation of a great customer experience. This, of course, helps with… CONVERSIONS!
How to use filters for ecommerce stores
After establishing the product categories, it’s time to use filters to further refine product search results.
This can be a nightmare, I know this.
Filters are an essential feature of an e-commerce website, as they allow users to easily narrow down their options based on aspects like size, colour, price, and brand. This helps make the shopping process easier.
See the theme here? We’re trying to make the UX easier. This is what the customer wants. Let’s give it to them.
Here are some filtering options that I often consider:
- Price Range: Allowing customers to filter products based on their budget.
- Size: Providing a filter for selecting products available in specific sizes.
- Colour: Offering a colour filter to show products in the chosen colour.
- Brand: Giving users the option to filter products by their favourite brands.
Of course, this can be changed for your brand and niche requirements. But it’s a good base layer to think about!
Okay, next steps.
Ecommerce Search Functionality
It’s not unusual for this to be ignored.
In my experience, optimising the search functionality on an e-commerce website is solid for helping customers find the products they’re looking for.
Let me share a few tips for your search bar.
A well-structured search function should:
- Take into account synonyms, misspellings, and other variations
- Prioritise results based on relevance and user preferences
- Offer filters to narrow down search results based on various attributes (such as brand, price, and customer reviews)
I’ve found that implementing machine learning algorithms can be highly effective in improving search functionality.
By analysing user behaviour, these algorithms can continuously learn and adapt to provide more accurate search results.
Another awesome feature, we can start to understand what customers want, and slightly adapt new pages around their intent… BOM 🛍️
In my opinion, autocomplete suggestions are one of the most user-friendly search features that you can implement for an e-commerce website, as they:
- Help users save time by suggesting popular queries as they type
- Reduce the likelihood of spelling errors and incorrect queries
- Enable users to discover new products or categories they may be interested in
To ensure the effectiveness of this feature, I recommend regularly analysing query data to update and improve autocomplete suggestions.
By optimising search functionality and offering autocomplete suggestions, I believe an e-commerce website can provide a user-friendly and efficient shopping experience for its customers.
Identifying Ecommerce Needs for Your Business Model
During the IA system plan, you need to consider the goals of your users visiting your e-commerce website.
You could assess user goals by conducting user interviews and usability testing (this is another topic, but you know the idea).
Here’s the winner!
Gaining an understanding of the users’ needs allows me to create a more intuitive and user-friendly interface. Some common user goals are:
- Easily finding a product: Use good search functionality, clear site navigation and easy product categorisation… Looks simple, but it’s not. This is where architectural design comes in.
- Viewing accurate and complete product information: I ensure all descriptions are clear and user-focussed, with high-quality images, product specifications, price and availability.
- Effortless checkout process: I aim to create a smooth, secure checkout experience, limiting the number of steps, and offering multiple payment and shipping options.
It’s vital to balance user goals with the e-commerce website’s business objectives.
We should NEVER sacrifice brand goals for the sake of SEO. Every SEO team should follow this mantra in my eyes.
Understanding the goals of the business enables me to create strategic pathways and opportunities for growth.
Some common business objectives are:
- Increasing sales and conversion rates: Through effective product presentation and easy navigation, I strive to maximise user satisfaction and facilitate the purchasing process, leading to more conversions and increased sales for the business.
- Expanding the customer base: By enhancing the website’s search engine optimisation (SEO), I help new users discover the website. This includes structuring the content in an SEO-friendly manner, performing keyword analysis and optimising metadata.
- Building customer loyalty: A positive shopping experience encourages customers to return. Using features such as personalised recommendations and engaging content, I strive to deepen the connection between the user and the e-commerce website, increasing loyalty and long-term customer value.
By addressing both user goals and business objectives, I create a well-structured information architecture that leads to a user-friendly e-commerce website, ultimately driving the success and growth of the business.
I have some more tips.
Accessibility and Usability
As an e-commerce SEO, I want any website I work with to be accessible and usable for as many users as possible.
With that in mind, let’s dive into two crucial segments: mobile experience and page load speed.
I shouldn’t even have to tell you how important this is in 2023.
Since more and more users are browsing and shopping on their smartphones, I need to create a seamless and intuitive mobile experience for brands.
With a responsive design, I can make sure your Shopify or whatever platform eCommerce CMS adapts to different screen sizes and devices. Also, I should ensure that buttons and touch targets are large enough for users to interact with comfortably. Customers should want to keep clicking through your array of products.. WE WANT SALES 😉
Page Load Speed
You already know how important this is for 2023!
The faster your e-commerce website loads, the easier it is for users to shop and make purchases. You should aim for a page load time of under 3 seconds to keep your customers engaged.
Several factors can improve the page load speed, including:
- Optimising images: By compressing and resizing images appropriately, I can reduce the file size, which decreases page load time.
- Using browser caching: This involves storing parts of your website on the user’s device, so they don’t have to re-download everything each time they visit.
Think about this.
Focusing on accessibility and usability through mobile experience and page load speed can greatly enhance user satisfaction and conversion rates on your e-commerce website. It’s essential to keep monitoring and optimising these aspects to remain competitive in the online marketplace.
As someone who’s designing an e-commerce website, I believe user testing is crucial for creating a seamless and user-friendly experience.
Through user testing, we can identify areas of improvement and ensure that our website’s information architecture is up to par.
One thing to think about is tree testing.
Tree testing is a great way for assessing an e-commerce website’s information architecture. This technique focuses on evaluating the findability of items within the hierarchical structure of a website. In tree testing, brands present participants with a simplified text-based version of the website’s hierarchy and ask them to find specific items or perform certain tasks.
When conducting tree testing, it’s important to:
- Create a clear, easy-to-understand tree representing the site structure
- Select tasks that represent common user goals
- Provide enough variety in task difficulty
After the tests, brands can analyse the data, identify patterns in user behaviours and pinpoint areas that need improvement.
With this information, I can make informed design decisions and create an e-commerce website that truly meets the needs of the users.
Remember, user testing is all about learning from actual users. By incorporating tree testing into the design process, brands can ensure their e-commerce website’s IA is well-organised, intuitive, and accessible to all users.
Ontologies Play A Huge Role Within E-commerce
I’m not going to talk too much about ontologies in this guide (but it’s directly related). I want you to understand how important this is for website clustering around topics.
Here are my key thoughts:
- Ontologies play an important role in e-commerce by enabling semantic interoperability between different e-commerce systems and services. They provide common terminology and machine-interpretable semantics that allows systems to exchange and process information more effectively.
- Ontologies can be used to annotate and enrich e-commerce data such as product catalogues, orders, transactions, etc. This enhances capabilities like product search, recommendation, and decision support.
- Ontologies support personalisation and contextualisation in e-commerce applications. They allow capturing user profiles with rich semantics that can be matched against product data to provide personalised product recommendations and promotions.
- Ontologies enable automated reasoning and inference over e-commerce data. Logical relationships between concepts defined in ontologies allow new knowledge to be derived from existing data. This improves capabilities like product classification, comparison, etc.
- Ontology-based approaches have been applied in various e-commerce settings like online shopping sites, mobile commerce, web services discovery, supplier selection, etc. to enable semantic interoperation and intelligent functionality.
- Key challenges in applying ontologies include ontology development, maintenance, integration, and reasoning performance. Methods like modularisation, mapping, and optimisation can help overcome these challenges.
- Overall, ontologies are a vital component supporting the current and future capabilities of e-commerce systems and applications. Their role is likely to grow as e-commerce becomes more sophisticated, personalised and knowledge-driven.
Final Thoughts On Information Architecture for E-commerce Website
Every website on the web can improve their IA.
It’s 100% worth the investment.
Because it will bring you ROI with your customers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Information Architecture?
It’s what it says in the name 🙂
IA is the practice of organising, structuring and classifying information in a way that makes it easier to find, understand and use.
It’s the organisation of websites, intranets, portals and other digital products. IA involves understanding how information is structured, how it can be connected, and how users interact with it.
What Is the Difference Between UX and IA?
UX (User Experience) is focused on the overall experience that a user has when interacting with a product. It includes elements such as user interface design, usability, accessibility, and pleasure of use. UX also includes how users perceive and interact with your store.
IA, however, goes beyond the user experience and focuses on the structure, organisation and navigation of a product. It’s the way information is presented to users, how it can be used and navigated, and how it flows between different pages or sections.
Are information architecture and navigation the same?
No, information architecture and navigation are not the same. Navigation is a subset of information architecture. Navigation focuses on the links or pathways users take when they interact with an interface like a website, app, or other digital product. Information architecture on the other hand looks at how all elements of an interface (including navigation) flow together to create a coherent and cohesive user experience. It involves understanding how users interact with a product, how they move between pages or sections, and how information is presented to them.
What is e-commerce enterprise architecture?
E-commerce enterprise architecture is a set of strategies and principles for designing, developing, and managing an e-commerce system. It’s used to ensure that e-commerce applications are secure, reliable, scalable, and easy to use. E-commerce enterprise architecture encompasses all aspects of the underlying technology stack as well as the architecture of user interfaces.
It emphasises a holistic view that considers how different technologies, such as web services, databases, search engines and payment gateways, interact with each other.
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