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Review the Category Structure of Your Magento Store

by | Jun 1, 2015 | Ecommerce, For Our Magento eCommerce Clients

One of the fundamental information architecture tasks in any eCommerce project is to define the structure of your product catalogue. For existing sites, a rebuild is a great opportunity to review the category structure and make improvements where possible.

There are many factors to consider when determining the structure of your catalogue. Here are some questions you should be asking when you review yours.

User Experience

While there may be operational considerations and or course SEO at play, user experience is a great place to start. At the end of the day, it’s the customer who will ultimately (hopefully) find and purchase your products.

  • Do category names use terminology that your customers are familiar with? Speak the same language as your customers.
  • Does the hierarchy resemble the journey you’d expect your customers to take to find products in your store? Get inside the head of your customers.

Be Informed by Data

Ideally decisions around catalogue structure should be, to some extent, informed by data. Google Analytics (analysis of eCommerce reports) and heat mapping (such as Crazy Egg) can provide insight into your popular categories and user behaviour.

  • Is the popularity of your top level categories reflected in the order of your catalogue’s categories (and in turn your site’s main navigation – discussed below)? Try to structure by popularity where possible.
  • Are customers regularly forced into going the “long way” to find the product they want? Each click/thought process you ask a customer to take introduces friction into the transaction funnel. Minimise friction.

Navigation Relationship and “Real Estate”

The main navigation (main menu bar) takes up prime real estate on your website. Keep in mind that Magento’s core functionality is to mirror the category structure in the site’s navigation, including the main menu items.

  • How many top level categories do you have? Will they all fit horizontally within the main menu? Your goal is to keep the “width” of your catalogue (number of top level categories) within the physical width of the site. Ideally there should be some free space in the menu as responsive sites will force the display of the “mobile” navigation earlier (at higher px width) if the menu is completely packed.
  • Can you optimise the category names to utilise as few characters as possible (replace “and” with “&”) while retaining a good user experience?

Depth of Structure and Number of Categories

It might be tempting to create a deep structure thinking that the more layers there are, the more understandable or familiar the structure will be. Within reason, there is logic to this approach. But also remember that for each level you add, that will typically translate to an additional step in the customer journey on the front end.

The depth of your structure and the number of categories should be proportional to the size of your product catalogue.

  • How many products do you have in each category? To few, and your catalogue will look sparse, which can reduce customer confidence. Too many, and you may force customers to unnecessarily use additional filtering such as the Magento’s layered navigation.
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