How can I make my website easy to navigate?

I run a small business and am about to launch a new retail website. Can you give me some tips on making my website easy to navigate?

When it comes to building a site that your customers will love and come back to again, there are a few key areas that can help to improve their experience of shopping online with your company.

Building categories

Too many online stores overwhelm customers by showing lots of shop categories on their homepage, for example, a clothes shop with a menu bar showing 12 different departments. This can be very off-putting, so try keep your homepage menu simple; ideally no more than five or six sections. These might be links to ‘Shop’, ‘About us’ ‘Contact us’ and ‘FAQs’. In ‘Shop’, you should then place your main categories (i.e. ‘Shoes’, ‘Accessories, ‘Men’, ‘Women’) and, if you wish, you can break those categories down even further into sub-categories (ie in ‘Shoes’, you could have ‘Heels’, ‘Sandals’, ‘Boots’).

Make searching easy

If your online shop has lots of products, it can be hard for customers to find exactly what they are looking for, so a well-designed search facility is important. When you add products, make them searchable according to colour, price range, material, or whatever is relevant to your products as it will improve the shopping experience (and your sales!) hugely.

Ideas to generate sales

Keep your homepage regularly updated, so customers are aware of new products or promotions. If possible, include information on product pages which highlight other relevant products; for example, if a customer is looking at a set of earrings, add a link to a matching necklace.

Customer accounts

If customers shop regularly with your store, make their life easier by allowing them to register with you. That way, they can easily access their favourite products and track their orders, so buying becomes quicker and more convenient.

These are just a few steps to help make your site easier to navigate, but my last tip would be to conduct some user testing. Ask your customers how they are finding your site, or get friends and family to give you their feedback. Check out what your competitors are doing and finally, regularly review how your site is performing; it’s amazing what a difference just a few tweaks can make.

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