Search filters are a critical UX feature to ecommerce sites. The larger your product assortment, the more necessary they are.
But how you display the features may be helping or hurting your conversion rates.
This week's WhichTestWon feature test sought to discover if removing a "refine your search" toolbar above results on the UK Tool Centre website would increase click through rate. The hypothesis being the filter was a distraction, while pushing clickable results below the fold.
Despite the search page having more than 100 product results, the test version without the filter improved click through by 27%. While conversion rate was not reported, the significant increase in click through widens the funnel for conversion.
I myself found this result surprising, as I tend to take advantage of filters. But making decisions on what you like personally without testing is risky. What matters is what the majority of your visitors prefer, and what influences positive behaviors on your site.
If you use horizontal filters, this is a great testing idea, whether text-based or image-based.
But the same concept applies to the "banners" and featured merchandising zones so common on search and category pages.
Challenge your love affair with "hero shots"
Graphic subcategory presentation is another animal. It pushes down product results but may be effective -- another candidate for testing.
If you're using in-category cross-selling as above, make sure you test it. It may be distracting as it interrupts the user's task of finding a product matching the search or category term. The design element may also act as a roadblock to the eyes that discourages exploration below it. It may appear as the end of search results if the user's fold cuts across it.
It's not just about the fold, it's about meeting customer expectations. When you click a category link, do you expect a list of product or a maze like this?
Only a small portion of this category page's real estate is actual product results.
Relevance matters. When a user selects a brand category, why show a competing brand?
Have your cake and eat it to? Why not test an expand/collapse implementation, like Orange Mobile?
Note tht the click through or conversion differential in such a test could also be due to page load speed. Some filter features increase load time, which increases abandonment.
The UK Tool Centre example is not intended to show that no horizontal feature is a best practice. The takeaway is to test this feature on your site if you currently use it. You may be surprised at the improvement of removing what is believed to be a useful usability feature.