As I mentioned in my previous blogpost I am busy working on a website at the moment and a part of the website display dynamic product-related content. I believe that the product navigation is not perfect yet and I think it might be a good idea to take a look at some examples and draw a few conclusions from it. The first example I looked at this morning was Hi Fi Corporation (I was looking at some LCD tv’s) and immediately I started looking at the way the product navigation was done, and here are some of my thoughts:
Products are divided into categories and each category is displayed in two areas, the horizontal menu at the top and a vertical-collapsible menu to the right. Each category links to its own individual page, e.g. prods/audio for Audio products. When you click through to a category page the category bar remains to the left, with another “product filter” bar that appears below it.
If you go to another website, Take 2 (my favourite online retailer for DVD’s and books), you will notice that if you click through to electronics (which is a category much like the Hi Fi Corporation example) you get to a page with sub categories to the left, which when clicked on (e.g. Mp3 Players) produces a paged result page. The difference from the Hi Fi Corporation example is that the pages are not ajaxy and you could probably access an individual page with a link – whereas the Hi Fi Corporation example you couldn’t. I’m not saying its a bad thing, just stating the difference. How would you design a product pager? Make it URL accessible? If you take a look at this Amazon.com page you will see that the paging is ajaxy. The Amazon.com page I just linked to is also bound by category, software architecture, as was the Take 2 and Hi Fi Corporation example. Would it be wrong to surmise that categories are permalinks and the products/items on them are page-able and that the individual pages are not permalinks? I can understand why a page within a category would not make sense as a permalink – simply because the data might change and move around. If 20 new books on software architecture were added today that would affect the pages. You could also argue that a page could give you the top 10 new items which might make sense in a MVC architecture where you could apply action filters.
What would the ideal product navigation design be? Well the ideal product navigation design would take the functional aspects into consideration and produce an effective solution.