If you’ve heard of IKEA, you know they have a TON of products. Their warehouse-sized stores are simple proof of the sheer grandness of their catalog. If you visit any IKEA store, I’m sure they’re all organized similarly: signs pointed to certain areas of the showroom floor, and you follow them depending on whether you’re attempting to renovate your kitchen or buy a new bedding set. It’s fairly simple… walk through, follow the signs.
Even when you get to the other non-showroom levels, there are signs pointing everywhere to help you get where you need to go. All you have to possess is third-grade-level reading comprehension skills, and the ability to follow a map.
Now, you’d think IKEA would take the same user experience and implement it on their site. For the most part, they have, and things are well-organized in a standard storefront format.
But riddle me this: where are the breadcrumbs?
And it’s not just IKEA…
The above example is Target’s site… breadcrumbs are missing here too.
Going back to Exhibit A, not having breadcrumbs on IKEA’s site is equivalent to only having directional arrows on one side of their signs on the showroom floor. If you turned around and attempted to backtrack your steps, how would you get there if there aren’t directions on the flip-side of that sign?
How would a user find his way?
If I Google search for an item IKEA carries, I oftentimes am led directly to the product page. If I landed on one particular sofa’s product page (for example, the SATER), but didn’t like that style of sofa, how can I go back one step to the Leather Loveseats category page? Or even the SATER family’s category page, which consists of all the different products in the SATER line? What if there are similar products that would better suit my needs, but I have no way of backtracking my steps to see my choices?
This is bad design. The user would either a.) have to backtrack manually by fishing around the different categories in the main navigation, and drilling his way back down, or b.) go back to the Google, and do another search. This will be annoying for the end user. The more times he has to go back to his search engine to look for individual products on your site, the more likely he is to NOT come back. If a site is frustrating, your user will leave.
What’s the takeaway from all this?
When you have a product catalog with numerous skus that can span multiple subcategories deep, your user will want a way to backtrack his or her steps without having to start from the very beginning.
Sellers, take heed. Make your inventory as accessible as possible. Give one product several avenues to be reached, whether it be through multiple categories, user preferences checkboxes, or related items… just make sure each avenue is relevant and useful in helping the end user find his or her product.
Am I missing something here? How do you feel about breadcrumbs? Necessity, or just clutter? Let me know in the comments below.