Once you know exactly who your target audience is, catering to their needs becomes a matter of offering a variety of filtering options that match what they most want and need from your site. One study showed that a mere 16 percent of online retailers offered decent filtering options. The reasons the filtering options didn’t work effectively were varied but included bad user interface and illogical filtering options.
Fortunately, there are some specific filtering options you can use, depending on your industry and the main reason consumers visit your site. This makes it easier for users to find exactly what they’re looking for. Here are eight of the best filtering options to meet the needs of your audience.
For smaller inventory collections, allowing visitors to sort alphabetically allows them to browse through different offerings in an organized manner. This works particularly well if you have a few categories of product types and a low number of items in each. Extremely large inventories are more difficult to browse and need to be much more specific. Some types of products also lend themselves to alphabetic searches, such as repair parts or the names of specific woodworking tools.
Kilt Society sells a limited number of kilts, so adding the ability to sort alphabetically makes a lot of sense. Their typical site visitor may not know the exact kilt they’d like to order, so this is an organized way to browse through the different kilt styles and patterns on the site without losing your place. The alphabet breaks into two options, A to Z or Z to A.
Allowing visitors to sort by color or pattern works particularly well on sites that sell clothing or furniture — anything with material. More than likely, the consumer will first see an overall design they like. They can then sort through the different options in that design by clicking on the color filter options and seeing how the item looks in different shades or patterns. The filter should also allow the user to search a color and see what designs come up in those shades.
If your internal analytics show that you have customers in a certain category, it’s a smart move to offer a filtering option for those customers. This can include a specific category or the ability to sort by a feature that only those customers most want. Understanding which filters to add means knowing your target audience inside and out.
Note the filtering options on Sincerely Nuts. They cater to a few special dietary restrictions and allow those audience members to go directly to the products specific to that diet. Those on a gluten-free diet simply click on the no wheat icon, while those looking for organic options click on that icon. Other filters include categories with special diets, such as sugar-free, salt-free, raw and kosher.
Offering a drop-down menu for filtering options works well as most online consumers are familiar with a drop-down menu. If you have a lot of different categories and additional options in those categories, a drop-down menu takes up minimal space while allowing users to go to the specific products they want.
Sometimes a visitor lands on your site not knowing what they are looking for. Offering bestsellers as one of your filter options allows these visitors to see what products other people love from your site that they might enjoy too. It’s a smart browsing system for visitors and also shows which products people like the most.
Party City has dozens and dozens of costumes and accessories on their website. They offer a filtering option labeled shopping by “top costumes” among other options. This tells consumers what is popular right now. That means you can either choose a costume that is sought after or make sure you don’t choose one of the popular choices, so your choice is more unique.
For sites where users are trying to sort to a specific size, color or other option, allowing multiple choices helps. For example, if a site visitor wants to buy a pair of white Nike athletic shoes in a women’s size eight, the ability to click on checkboxes that indicate women’s, Nike and size 8 will narrow the search results to only those choices that match those options.
A different kind of filtering option includes leaving breadcrumbs in your search results so that the site visitor can find their way back through the options. This works well when you have a lot of different product choices within a category. The user might decide to go back to the beginning of the category or any filter from that point forward.
Take a look at how breadcrumbs show you where you’ve been on the Hayneedle website. So, at any point, you can go back to the home page, or to the outdoor category, the outdoor furniture filter and conversational patio sets in only one search string. These breadcrumbs give the user a lot of search flexibility.
When people visit a brick and mortar store, the salesperson helps direct them to the items they’re looking for, and online shopping should offer similar features. When a customer comes to the eCommerce site, they can plug a term into the search box such as “400 thread count sheets” and should find a list of choices available that match that search term.
Adding filtering options that make sense for your target audience is a vital part of creating a positive user experience on your website. Add specific filtering options that make sense for the types of products on your site and your visitors will find what they are looking for.
Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She loves researching trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.