Building Superb User Experience with Color Swatches on Shopify

Color swatches on ecommerce websites are a vital element of user experience, as they help users discover available product colors faster and with minimal fuss. However, for the best user experience, it is essential to fine-tune swatches thoughtfully. Let's sink our teeth into the best practices with swatches to see what aspects are worth paying attention to.

The benefits of integrating color swatches

Color swatches in ecommerce are a feature that allows customers to choose between available colors of the same product, like in the gif below.
The example of product color swatches
Color swatches
Product color swatches are the best solution for managing product options for anyone who wants to build an ultimate user experience on the ecommerce website. Color swatches do so by creating smooth navigation: customers can choose different colors on the same page without going back to the catalog and then again to product pages - or having to reload the website. Also, swatches provide great visual information, giving customers a hint about which ones are available.
Color swatches are a key purchasing decision for many users' when shopping in industries such as apparel, home furnishings, and beauty.

Baymard Institute
In addition, website color swatches impact conversions by reducing the number of clicks for customers to find the product they want. The shorter and easier a customer's path to the desired product is, the more likely he is to convert.

At the moment, Searchanise color swatches are available only for Shopify merchants.

Best practices

Now let's dive into the best practices concerning color swatches to see what to pay attention to when setting them up.

  1. Interactive swatches

The swatches described in the first part of the article are interactive ones. The main feature of interactive swatches is the ability to compare different colors directly from the product list without visiting the product page (see the gif below).

Non-interactive swatches require customers to visit the product page, thus reducing the UX benefits of the swatches. So, consider adding interactive swatches for the best user experience, especially if you sell visually-driven products, such as clothes, shoes, beauty products, furniture, or decor.
The example of interactive swathces on mobile website
Interactive color swatches

2. A clear change of swatches

For enhanced UX with swatches, make sure it is clear to customers that the product image has changed when they select a different swatch. Otherwise, customers won't benefit from interactive swatches. To ensure clear change, firstly check that the product image is big enough. And secondly think of adding product images taken from different angles for product variations. For example, for apparel, it could be different poses of fashion models.

Let's compare the two gifs below to see the difference. In the first gif, the pose of the fashion model changes every time a different color is selected.
A visible change of product swatches
A prominent change of swatches
In the second gif, the pose of the model remains the same. Even though the color change is still visible, it is less pronounced than in the first example.
Not so visible change of color product swatches
Less prominent change of swatches

3. Tints and shades of color

If you sell products with complex tints and shades of color, for effective UX, show your customers all the available colors, even if they are similar. To do so, use color families. It is a feature that allows you to add new colors with complex names into a standard palette and display them in swatches.

Like in the example below, the shirt has two pretty close shades: blue and cyan. Although they look similar, both are displayed in swatches. If you want to find out more about how color families work and set them up, refer to our documentation.
Color families help to manage swatches with shades of color
Similar shades in swatches
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4. Large and well-spaced swatches

If you want color swatches to be comfortable to use, pay attention to their size and spacing. If the hit area is too small, it will be hard for mobile users to interact with them. To give you reference, Baymard suggests that the minimum hit area should be at least 7mm x 7mm, and the minimum spacing between the swatches is 2 mm. You can even run a brief usability test: ask people to tap certain swatches on a mobile device to see if they have difficulties or not.
How to check usability of swatches
Usability test of color swatches

5. No truncation

Another issue to be avoided is truncation — the shortening of the swatches list when only a few available colors are shown, like in the picture below. It negatively affects the UX benefits of swatches, as in this case, customers have to visit the product page to view all the available colors. And even if only one color swatch is truncated, users still will have to go to the product page, as it is hard to say yes or no to something without knowing what all the options are.
Website swatches shouldn't be truncated
An example of truncated swatches

6. Horizontal scrolling

If you want to avoid truncation but the product has many swatches, you may end up with an excessively tall swatches list. However, you can solve this issue by using horizontal scrolling. It clearly indicates that more color options are available, and allows customers to scroll through them without visiting the product page. See how smoothly horizontal scrolling works for Estee Lauder lipstick with 46 shades.
Smooth performance of swatches scrolled horizontally
Horizontal scrolling of swatches
SEO hint

Try to set different URLs for different colors of the same products. This will attract more organic traffic and help you better set up PPC ads.

Key takeaways

Let's now wrap up the most important points of the article:

  • If you sell products that have different color options, consider listing them as one product with color swatches
  • The key benefit of integrating swatches is an enhanced user experience
  • To create the best possible UX, make sure that swatches are interactive, large, well-spaced, and include shades and tints of color
  • For products with long lists of swatches try to avoid truncation and use horizontal scrolling instead

If you want to integrate configurable swatches to your Shopify-based ecommerce website, install Searchanise. Apart from swatches, Searchanise provides instant site search and customizable product filters. And you can benefit from all these functions at the cost of just two Starbucks cups of coffee.
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Anastasiya Kupriyanova - Content creator
Anastasiya Kupriyanova
Anastasiya is a content creator at Searchanise. Her professional areas of interest are SaaS solutions and ecommerce. Anastasiya believes that quality content must be valuable for readers and achieve business goals. When she is not busy writing, which does not happen often, she reads passionately, both fiction and non-fiction literature.

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