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Top 4 Best Navigation Design Practices for E-commerce Websites

Updated on February 25, 2024
Posted on April 20, 2017 by Matt Stewart

Top 4 Best Navigation Design Practices for E-commerce Websites

The best practices for e-commerce navigation differ from other business websites in several key ways. Overall, shoppers should be able to find what they need quickly and easily. If they can’t find it or get frustrated within 5 seconds, they’re out.

And on to your competitor.

Humans have developed an attention span shorter than Dory’s from Finding Nemo. How do you meet someone’s needs within FIVE seconds? Good navigation improves the online shopping experience, impresses shoppers quickly and helps merchants increase sales and profits. Here we outline the top 4 best practices for e-commerce navigation and provide screenshots from a recent project as examples.


Use Relevant Labels

In most circumstances, the top level of e-commerce navigation should include a set of general product category labels. These are best as single words that describe a broad range of products. Don’t get complicated here. Shoppers should be able to scan navigation labels and instantly understand what those labels represent within the store context. Here you can see how simple we kept the labels so the user finds what they're looking for immediately:




A User Experience (UX) Designer, SEO Lead and Project Owner from your website design agency will do a navigation audit to develop a taxonomy and site structure that enhances SEO, optimizes UX and consolidates site navigation.


Make Top-level Navigation Clickable, Tappable

E-commerce sites with many products and product categories use mega menus, drop downs, and flyout menus. Let’s define those:

  • Dropdowns – These menus appear as your cursor rolls over the main product label
  • Mega menu – A dropdown menu that also contains product content, as text or images
  • Flyout menus – A horizontal version of a dropdown menu

This screenshot displays a clean top-level navigation with a mega menu dropdown:


Design Conventions


Shoppers expect the top level navigation on a dropdown or flyout menu and any headings within it to be active, clickable links.

Follow Design Conventions

Going back to the 5-second rule, shoppers have little patience for a revolutionary navigation design. We become accustomed to finding what we want on a website and want that theme to carry over from one website to another. If you design something out of the box, you are likely to lose customers who aren’t interested in your “vision.”

For e-commerce navigation, it is best to follow common design and navigation conventions. Hamburger menus, the stack of lines representing a hidden menu, are widely recognized on mobile, laptop and desktop devices. Navigation should either be at the top of the page, or for sites featuring left-to-right reading languages, on the left side of the page. 

You can see the hamburger menu in the top right-hand corner of this screenshot:

E-Commerce Navigation


Google’s store uses hidden menus on all screen sizes, and for both profile access and product navigation on relatively smaller screens.

Include a Search Function

Yes, there are e-commerce businesses that don’t put a search bar on their website.

Search is one of the most important tools for e-commerce website navigation. It should always be included at or near the top of every page on a website. 

 The search function is clearly displayed at the top of this homepage:

 Search Function

Good E-commerce Navigation Improves Sales

The e-commerce shopping experience should be seamless, so visitors aren’t dropping off halfway through the process. Follow these e-commerce navigation best practices and visitors will naturally walk through the sales funnel and become customers.


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