What's a site without category pages? – Conversion Wednesday

By Kevin

Do you wonder whether your category and product listing funnel is optimal?

For today’s Conversion Wednesday, I would like to discuss the importance of having clean, organized, and easy to shop category pages on an e-commerce site. One of the fundamental mistakes that an e-commerce store can make is creating a site that only has a homepage, product listings pages, and product pages. It makes it incredible difficult to scale that site over time – although I’ll present you an alternate that can still make that approach work for you.

The natural funnel

The natural way for people to shop is to go to a category page that highlights an entire major section of a website – then choose a smaller set of products to look at from that category by clicking into a product listings page. For example – they may click into a category page that says “widgets” – then from that widgets category page, they may wish to see all products listed as “red widgets”. This is an easy, manageable experience for users.

A site without the step of category pages is a messy experience:

If a site tried to simply showcase a fair number of different product types, let’s say 200 in total, without the use of category pages, they would have to choose 1 of 2 ways to go about doing that – (1) utilize a small group of product listing pages that showcase multiple product types together at once, or (2) have 200 separate links in their navigation to each individual product listing page. Let’s explore them…

Without category pages, option #1: A few product listing pages with tons of products per page:

When a site simply brings visitors from the home page to a massive product listings page, the visitor gets a messy mix of products that provide no sense of where to go next. Visitors are simply faced with many products on a page with no rhyme or reason. They then can become overwhelmed and feel lost. They will not take the time to sift through all of the products but rather leave the site and go to the next competitor to find what they were looking for. Furthermore, if the total number of products in that product listing page is numerous, let’s say 100 or more, then users not only have to sift through to find what products are red vs. green, but they will also need to go from one page to the next playing the same, frustrating game.

Without category pages, option #2: Tons of product listing pages

If you have too many product listing pages – it’s just as confusing to have a navigation that is filled with too many product listing options and no central place for categories. Navigations are overwhelming creations on the internet and simplifying them can often lead to a more pleasant experience that allows the users to find clarify, and find their products, in peace

The exception to make your site work without category pages

There’s an exception to make your site work without using category pages – if you use option 1, where users jump right into the experience you whole selection at the “widget” level, then a neat use of pagination and filtration options can make the experience plenty useful.

If your mass widget page has radio buttons for color, then your users can look at just green and red, if they choose to do so. Adding pagination options like alternate layouts and the ability to choose how many products are visible per page can make the experience that much easier. In that case, you can rest assured that you have done what is necessary to close the gaps in the experience left out by the category page level.