Product Filters: Learning from Top Brands about How to Enhance Ecommerce User Experience

Anastasiya Kupriyanova
By Stacy
Jun 29 2021
Time to read
6 min to read
Product filters are a great tool for narrowing down the search when looking for a specific product. But how to make sure they really help, rather than confuse users? Explore the world's best practices to find out the most effective strategies concerning filters - and adapt those that suit you most to build an ultimate user experience.

Why default filters are underperforming

Default filters don't always meet the specific needs of every ecommerce business. Some merchants discover that filters click into gear very slowly due to an extensive catalog size, and thus slow down the loading times. Others experience difficulties because standard filters, such as color, size, product rating, availability, etc. do not work well for the products they sell. But no matter what their problem is, it results in a frustrated user.

So, what do you do if the default product filters, that your ecommerce platform provides, fail to fully meet your business needs while also providing quality UX? Let's take a look at the best business practices around the world to find out how top companies deal with the issue.

Why is it worth improving users' filtering experience?

Let's look at why it is worth improving product filtering in the first place. Clear, relevant, and seamlessly working eCommerce filters help customers find products faster and easier, resulting in better UX and higher customer satisfaction. And happy customers are much more likely to come back to your website. Advanced eCommerce search filters also help customers to get better acquainted with your catalog and encourage them to make additional purchases. So the logic behind improving product filtering UX is rather straightforward.

But not all store owners treat product filters seriously enough. Indeed, the Baymard Institute has found that many ecommerce websites provide second-rate product filtering. Therefore, if you invest some time into fine-tuning filters on your site and provide a better UX in the process, this could become your competitive advantage.

Examples of product filtering practices top ecommerce sites use

Now let's take a look at the best practices from world-famous brands to gain insight into how to improve your product filters on Shopify, WooCommerce, or other ecommerce platforms you might choose for your store.

Ebay: category-specific filters

In contrast to universal filters, category-specific filters are used only with certain product types and do not suit other products. If it weren't for them, it would be simply impossible to find what you are looking for among thousands of different products on eBay.

Let's see how product-specific filters can help. If you sell, let's say, electronics, you'll need a specific set of filters for laptops (see gif below), such as operating system, RAM size, screen size, processor, etc.
The example of category-specific filters
Category-specific filters for laptops on Ebay
But filters that are essential for laptops will not work for other electronic devices. For example, when looking for a camera, things such as operating system and RAM size are not relevant. However, it makes perfect sense to include "maximum resolution" and "optical zoom" filters to make customers' search for cameras easier.

Therefore, when setting up new filters, think of relevant category-specific filters for your products to improve user experience (UX). If you're having doubts about what to include, try doing the following:

  • refer to product description and create filters based on product features

  • look for ideas on bigger ecommerce websites, such as Ebay

Amazon: thoughtful arrangement of filters

Another aspect to think of is the order of product filters. The most important filters should always be at the top. For example, such ecommerce giants as Amazon often show product ratings at the very top, as customers often refer to the rating to weed out low-quality products from thousands of those on offer.

Apart from filters on the left-hand side, Amazon frequently includes a filter at the top of the search results page (that is a category-specific filter, by the way). For example the picture below shows how you can filter sofas by seating capacity.

To create a high-quality user interface, you should always aim to make the most popular filters visible by putting them at the top of the filter list - or above the search results page, like Amazon does. Such a UI is already intuitively familiar to users, which means they can use filters with minimal fuss.
An example of thoughtfully arranged filters
Arrangement of filters on Amazon

Ralph Lauren: multiple filters

It's vital to give users the ability to apply multiple filters at the same time, as it helps to narrow down the product search in just a few clicks. Imagine a customer is looking for size 7 black boots on Ralph Lauren's website (see the gif below). Multiple filters selected at the same time allow him to find the right product in less than a minute. A shining example of a brilliant user interface.
Application of several filters at the same time
Multiple filters applied on Ralph Lauren website

Macy's: intuitive and clear search filters

For a seamless UX, make sure that filters are intuitive to easy to use. Search filters are often located at the top of the search results page or the left-hand column, both places prominent and easily accessible.

An excellent example of a search filters design done right is the minimalistic Macy's website. The filtering options are hidden under the drop-down list to avoid overloading the page (below). But if you click on the plus button next to any of them, for example, "sleeve length," you will see available filter options: sleeveless, tank, short sleeve, ¾ sleeve, long sleeve.
The example of good filters design
Intuitive filters on Macy's website

Etsy: thematic filters

Thematic filters help users find products that are related to specific themes. For instance, on Etsy, you can choose a dress by occasion — bachelorette party, LGBTQ pride, prom, etc. Think of adding thematic filters, if they are applicable to your products, to enhance eCommerce UX even further.
Filters based on a certain theme
Thematic filters on Etsy

Walmart: natural language

Filters should use real-world language for users to understand them better. Think about how a customer would ask a shop assistant about a product in a department store. This is what natural language filters should be like. Needless to say, understandable filters directly affect the UX.

If in doubt, try reading customers' reviews where they refer to a product they bought. For example, customers refer to medical uniforms as "scrubs" in reviews (see picture below).
The comment user left
Customer review on Walmart website
And this is precisely how Walmart calls this product filter (see the picture below).
Filters at Walmart website
Filter using natural language

Victoria's Secret and Best Buy: mobile-friendly

It is essential to optimize your website for mobile users, as it is estimated that in 2021 53,9% of all sales in the US will be made via mobile devices. That is why filters, too, have to be mobile-friendly.

Victoria's Secret website can be seen as an example of an admirable UX tailored for mobile devices, with fast and easy navigation. When surfing a website, one of the fastest ways to navigate it is to browse products by category, especially if categories are complete with pictures, which show the product's style, such as different types of sleepwear (see the gif below). This could be particularly helpful for customers who are not sure how to best formulate a search query.
User experience on mobile
Different sleepwear categories on Victoria's Secret website
So, when fine-tuning your website, make sure that all of the practices mentioned above, as well as any others you may want to implement, work well not only on desktop but also on mobile. For another good reference of mobile UX, look no further than the Best Buy website.

Best Buy also adds pictures to product categories to make navigation easier (true wireless, wireless, over-ear and on-ear, etc.) If this proves insufficient, you can always apply further filters and narrow down the list of 164 headphones to a few products that perfectly fit your needs. By the way, the size of the buttons is just right for mobile devices: big enough to easily hit the button, but not too big to take up too much screen space.
Filters UX on BestBuy
Mobile user experience on BestBuy

Key takeaways

  • Try not to underestimate the role of filters for ecommerce: they can help you build a delightful user experience;
  • If you feel that default filters are underperforming, invest some time into improving them;
  • Learn from the best practices around the world and adapt those that suit you the most to provide an ultimate filtering experience for your users;
  • The most effective practices include adding category-specific and thematic filters. Make sure they are intuitive to use, thoughtfully arranged, and allow to apply multiple options simultaneously;
  • When implementing any of those practices, double-check that your users get the same great UX on mobile devices as they do on the desktop version of your website.

If you want to enhance your product filters, Searchanise can provide you with tools to implement the ideas from this article. All you need is to install the Searchanise app with one click, and filters will be automatically added after the first catalog indexation is complete. Filters are highly customizable and you can easily fine-tune them to meet your needs and requirements.

With Searchanise you can adapt the best filter practices and provide the same level of user experience as the best ecommerce sites.

Install Searchanise and equip your customers with product filters

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Anastasiya Kupriyanova - Content creator
Stacy is a content creator at Searchanise. Her professional areas of interest are SaaS solutions and ecommerce. Stacy 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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