October 21, 2021

Category structure for your online shop

With a clear category structure, you guide customers through your online shop and ensure a pleasant shopping experience. In this article, ePages usability expert Anja Gehl explains what is important.
Every online shop customer has a specific goal in mind. Anna, for example, is looking for the lowest price for the new iPhone. Paul, on the other hand, needs a cheap kettle with a capacity of 1.7 liters, and Michael is rummaging around for a modern, electronic gift for a friend. Although all three customers have different ideas, they all have the same goal: finding the right product.
As an online retailer, you now face the challenge of satisfying these different needs and showing your customers that your shop has exactly the right products in stock. Optimal structuring of your products and easy findability are core elements of a good shopping experience for your customers.


Categories as signposts
Imagine a new, large supermarket opening near you, which you want to try out immediately when you go shopping next weekend. Full of anticipation you enter the supermarket and try to orientate yourself. The structure of the supermarket looks familiar to you, so you can start shopping immediately.
Just before you queue up at the checkout, you notice that you have forgotten the jam. You hurry back to the middle of the supermarket and try to get an overview. Gratefully, you discover large signs above the aisles and quickly find the product you want without having to search through every shelf.
If we now transfer this pattern to the digital world, it becomes clear how important the categories are for the user of your online shop. Your goal should be to guide your customers as simple and user-friendly as possible – because if they don’t find what they are looking for, they will leave your shop. The next online shop is only one click away.
Even if you are just starting out and only offer a few products in your shop, it pays off to start thinking about a clear and expandable category structure right now. In many older shops, we are increasingly finding that there is no red thread. Because shops grow and new categories are added. In everyday business, it often happens that the overall concept is forgotten and perhaps some categories lose focus. In the worst case this results in double or empty categories. The danger of losing a customer in this way is great. For example, how does it affect you when you finally find the right shelf in a supermarket after a long search, but it is empty? Would you continue shopping in this store or find a new store for your next purchases?

Category structure
Category structure


Categories for online shops


With the right categories, your customers will reach their destination quickly and easily
Categories in the Onlineshop
The optimal category structure looks different for each online shop, as it depends on the products and the target group of the shop. However, we would like to give you five tips that you can apply to every online shop:

  1. do not overwhelm your customers with too many categories on the first level
    Design a simple category structure with few headings and meaningful subcategories. Five to seven main categories have proven to be a good guide.
  2. choose comprehensible and non-overlapping headings
    Decide on familiar and easily understandable words and orientate yourself towards your target group. For example, avoid technical terms if you are not addressing a specialist audience. Choose generic terms that do not overlap thematically so that you can clearly assign your products.
  3. do not use product attributes in the category names
    Too many options in the menu make the use and orientation unnecessarily complicated. For example, instead of listing individual dress sizes or colors as categories, you should offer your customers the option of filtering by these product attributes. An exception to this is independent brands, especially in the fashion sector. Here, it makes sense to place the top brands prominently and display them for direct selection – for example with a top category “brands” and then the individual top brands as subcategories.
  4. use the mega menu with a deep category structure
    If you cannot avoid a deep category structure (i.e. many subcategories), use a mega menu. It opens as soon as you move the mouse over a menu item and shows the subcategories clearly arranged.
  5. look at your competition with a tool like brainbi Online Price Monitoring
    In many cases, a kind of standard has already emerged for certain types of products. In the fashion sector w

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)