Baymard Institute published a rare study about E-Commerce Search Usability, including a usability benchmark of the search engines of 50 top e-commerce sites reviewed across 60 usability heuristics. In a previous post, I already mentioned their interesting report on Product Lists & Filtering Usability.

This report on e-commerce search usability is intended to inquire more broadly, as it includes filtering but also much more (autocomplete, results layout, results logic & guidance, etc.).
It ranks top sites, like amazon, Walmart, Sears, Walgreens, Nordstrom, etc.

And guess what: Amazon comes first !

Amazon winner of best Search Usability.

Wait a minute… Search on amazon sucks. It is pretty clear. I am puzzled.

Amazon is great for delivery. Amazon is great because it has everything. But try finding something on their website. It is a nightmare. Let me give just one random example, the other day I was looking for a comforter. Among numerous filters: Bedding Fill Material, Bedding Cover Material, and…Bedding material. I thought that a comforter was made of inside material and outside material. What is the extra “Bedding material” ?

Search usability: amazon duplicate filters
The figure above shows an example of redondant filters on amazon web site.

An other common issue arises when you refine your search with filters by narrowing down the choices to 0 results. You get to see a bunch of results that have nothing to do with your search. The reason why you click the filter “silk” is because that’s what you wanted. You don’t want to see 30000 unrelated items, like coton comforters when you narrow down the price.
Are users so used to irrelevant search results that they don’t even see the problem ? Or are e-commerce merchant overlooking the issue ?
Hello Search usability !


Optim’Match Search usability benchmark

At Optim’Match, we studied many e-commerce websites. We will not rank them here. They mostly have similar issues.

-Every time we use a filter, the page is reloaded (too slow).
-We often end up on pages with only one product or zero product !
-And if we refine even more our search, to the point of not having any more products, then without any explanation the result page fills up with many unrelated products.
-Merchants need sometimes to feature specific items, for financial reasons, but they shouldn’t let them stick in there if clearly we are not looking for them.

Why are web sites merchant overlooking the problem ? Are there no good solutions out there ?