Navigation menu catch-22

I’m not a coder, or designer. I’m an ecommerce site business owner. I’m approaching a redesign of my site and I understand about having a meaningful big headline, sub headline and a CTA. But I’m trying to decide what links should be on a simple navigation menu. If I offer a bunch of different educational products that serve a single discipline, yet I need to educate customers on which product is right for them, does it make sense to have a PRODUCTS item in a nav menu? I wouldn’t want the novice going in there before I funnel him where he needs to go. At the same time, I don’t want to hide the products from people who already know what they need and want. In other words, how should one approach deciding what links go into the main navigation menu? I suppose About and Contact are givens and they can’t really mess up a potential sale. Is there some method to approach this task?

In my experience trying to offer to much at once is the biggest mistake. If your site has content OTHER than product ( reviews, catalogs, demos, promos… whatever else ) then it makes sense to have product have separate button (, for example separates it buzz content from it’s buy apple). on the other hand , if this is strictly an online store ( think, you can reverse the concept an have a menu consisting of an organize tree of product categories, with a couple of buttons at the root level for contact and identification info.

I can’t emphasize enough how important a logical tree of product categories is. DONT fall for the temptation to put everything on the root level or simply guessing at ‘popular items’ ( tho you may feature them as CONTENT on your landing page)

Always remember to think from the CUSTOMERS point of view and not your own.

hope that helps

It’s not uncommon for commerce sites to have two menus: one for the site (home, about, contact, whatever) and one for products (though “products” itself can be a menu item on the “site” nav). The products menu can be a list of categories of the products.

For those who already know what they want, accommodate search-oriented users with a search bar. Make sure your search works well: typing in the main name of the product should never not show the product (it’s like the worst mistake evar for an ecommerce site to make! and surprisingly common). Beyond that, small typos should still be able to guess well enough to still offer the product. A good search engine can be set to tolerate typo’s between 1 and 3 characters off, as well as popular misspellings or popular groups of spellings (iPhone, i-phone, i phone).

Then your main page can have a “how do I get started?” call to action for those just coming for the first time and want to be hand-led to what they need. It’s not navigation but makes a lot of sense for a home page. Make sure any promotions/ads you have on the page aren’t more prominent than this “getting started” cta.

After coming up with a setup you like, user-test the sh*t out of it. Make sure users aren’t confusing the CTA for an ad, as Banner Blindness may make them avoid it and not read it; that new users indeed are getting correctly funneled to the right product; and that returning users always easily get to their particular products either directly via search or with a fairly straightforward click-click-click category navigation via the product menu.

Just a handful of users can find like 80% of your biggest flaws real quick, and that’s just what you want. So you could test on some sort of quickie-build prototype, or even bits of paper, instead of investing heavily in a finished product and then testing and finding stuff’s got to change.

If you’ve got the time and interest, you might want to check out the blog over at Baymard Institute as they’ve done two massive e-commerce studies (one desktop, one mobile) and while the reports have to be purchased, they make a ton of blog posts reporting their findings on all sorts of things which you can read for free. They’re definitely one of my favourite go-to places for e-commerce stuff.

Remember what works for (shop name here) isn’t necessarily true for you or your customers, but some things are the same and at the very least it gives you ideas on where to test things yourself and where to look.

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