The homepage is a crucial part of any e-commerce store because it represents the main point of entry and is a site anchor for users throughout their browsing session. Whether it's for the first time or the 27th, users looking at your homepage must clearly see how to browse through the various categories of your site, search for a specific product, and access special features such as new and recommended products.
Be obvious: Make sure your homepage makes it clear what type of products your store offers. Include a representative yet diverse range of products, preferably supported with well-chosen, attention-grabbing graphics.
Help users out: Promote the popular categories and subcategories of your store prominently on the homepage. Users arriving at the homepage need to end up in the right scope for the products they envision buying – such as the "Health and Beauty" scope for shoppers who want to buy mascara.
Keep things simple: Your site's users are often on a mission to find what they want right away. Navigational elements like "Categories" and "Search" should be easy to find, and they should load before content such as image carousels and sales promos.
Make shoppers feel special: Tailor your site as much as possible to provide an individualized (or segmented) shopping experience.
Bespoke imagery and design elements such as attractive photography can go a long way in creating a great first impression, making it more likely that users will stick around.
If the homepage of your e-commerce store is like the cover of a book, inviting people in to browse awhile, then your site's product categories are like the spine and the table of contents all at once, holding everything together and providing a clear infrastructure. Any good e-commerce store has a carefully designed category structure at its core.
Filter things out: It's important to distinguish between categories, filters and facets within your taxonomy. Categories are mutually exclusive divisions that separate products into distinct groups.
Filters use certain product metadata as visible criteria visitors can use to refine their search queries.
Facets (also called faceted filters), on the other hand, are used to window down the products available within a category based on the qualities of that product. Essentially using multiple filters simultaneously.
For example, if you have several similar products of different sizes, show the dimensions of each product in its listing. A product's average rating is also a key attribute to help many shoppers to narrow their search.
So you've put some serious effort into making your homepage, taxonomy, navigation and product listings clear, well-designed and user-friendly. Your job isn't over yet, though: You also need to consider how your general site-wide elements will be displayed and positioned. Your e-commerce site needs to make it easy for users to get around the website and find sections such as customer service, shipping and return information.
1. Map things out: If your best efforts fail and your users get hopelessly lost on your site, you need a way for them to hit the reset button. Create a sitemap that shoppers can consult in order to get a bird's-eye view of your site and its product categories. The sitemap should include all of the top-level categories in your taxonomy as well as the next layer of subcategories.
2. Get out of their way: Users tend to become frustrated at any interruption to their shopping experience. Overlay dialogs and popups asking the user to take a survey or sign up for a newsletter are generally seen as an ineffective annoyance. Instead, use banners and ads to place this content within the page where users can't remove it. In addition, forcing users to create an account before browsing causes many would-be shoppers to abandon the site or enter fake login details.
Although the importance of site navigation is hard to overstate, shoppers rarely follow a simple, straightforward path through your site when browsing. Instead, they often go back to previous pages, look for related products, move to a different category, or just start over entirely. Your site should anticipate this behavior and make even the most scatterbrained shopper feel at ease.
3. Make suggestions: You never want to miss the opportunity to make another sale, and your site's design should reflect that.
Recommend related, similar or complementary items on the product page, at checkout and within search results.
E-Commerce Usability: Homepage & Category, Baymard Institute
E-Commerce Usability: Search, Baymard Institute
E-Commerce Usability: Product Lists & Filtering
E-Commerce User Experience, Vol. 5: Search, Nielsen Norman Group
25 effective design patterns for ecommerce site search results, EConsultancy