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Mar 16, 2009 | 3 minute read

6 Creative Ideas for Filtered Navigation

written by Linda Bustos

Whether your customers are hunters (looking for something very specific), browsers (just poking around your site) or "howsers" (hunting for something but must browse to find the right product) -- filtered navigation can be very useful to your site visitors. Filtered navigation:

  • Helps hunters use navigation menus to locate a product rather than rely on search
  • Gives browsers an idea of what you carry
  • Helps howsers understand a product's important attributes or uses

There are infinite ways to present filtered navigation and they are often product-specific. You'll find different filter options in the Cell Phones and Service category than the Home Audio categories of, for example. The following are examples of filtered navigation (also called faceted navigation) that I found interesting:

Filter by Form

Action Envelope and use icons to illustrate the sub-category which is helpful for English as second language or those who are not familiar with industry jargon like "remittance" or "hobo". Showing shapes makes menus far more usable in these cases.

Off-topic, but Action Envelope also has a shop by use page which is very helpful.

Filter by Fit

MyShape matches clothes to different body shapes, and Eddie Bauer lets you filter by how you want the garment to fit you.

If you need a narrow or wide fitting shoe, Endless lets you find shoes available in special widths and sizes:

Filter by Problem

Taking a solutions-approach to selling, several cosmetics shops allow you to filter by "concern" (a kinder way of saying "problem"):

Left to right: Sephora,,

And Land's End lets you filter swimsuits by "anxiety zone" (again, a slighly less brash way of saying "problem area"):

Filter by Customer Review

Reviews can be a powerful way to learn what attributes matter to customers. For example, GPS shoppers may want the unit for driving or hiking. They may be rural or urban dwellers. They may be dissatisfied with their current unit and want to find products that have faster route calculations or more reliable satellite service.

Buzzillions (by Power Reviews) does a great job collecting consumer reviews from a number of sites and presenting useful filter options:

Filter by Color

Target shows that filter by color is not just for fashion retailers:

Shop by color is particularly helpful since most category pages use one default color in the thumbnail image. If a customer is dead-set on a particular color, the ability to hone in on products available in that color is very important.

Filters for a Tough Economy

Fingerhut's tagline is "Now You Can" (have something you really can't afford?), and as such allows customers to make smaller monthly payments instead of all up front:

Altrec lets you filter by % off:

How do you decide what product filters are useful?

1. Scope out your competitors' filters.
2. Read customer reviews, are there common keywords or features customers express are important?
3. Read expert reviews. They often influence customer purchase decisions. For example, I read a buyer's guide for portable GPS recommending the 2 essential features are text-to-speech and a 4.3" display. In my mind, I've eliminated any unit without these attributes, and would prefer to filter GPS results to products that fit that criteria.
4. Use your keyword referral reports and search logs. How do customers search for your product? What product attributes do they search for? Example: "nickel-free earrings"
5. Apply filters to your Google Analytics to expose exact keyword referrals. This shows you the "long tail" of search and helps you understand what people find important in products.
6. Use the Google Keyword Tool to find what your keyword referral reports may not have shown you.