Yesterday we did a walkthrough of key buyer pages and showed the new layout, design and logo. This is the second of three posts about the new design and I want to focus on the way in which we support browse, searching and ‘findability’ on Folksy so that more people can find more things that are relevant. Warning: this post isn’t nearly as beautiful as the previous post.
People navigate into, through and out of websites using two different behaviours: search and follow. Search is a more conscious and active behaviour and follow is a more passive and re-active behaviour and both are important when thinking about designing an online service like Folksy.
In most instances search doesn’t start on Folksy but with Google and how well you rank with Google is significant in whether you’re part of the user journey. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at search engine optimisation to make sure we’re part of the user journey for as many people wanting handmade gifts and supplies as possible. And because a handmade inventory like Folksy is large and has a high churn rate (a small number of items in a listing that often sell quickly) many of the pages people get to from search may be items that have already sold yet their search ‘value’ is still significant. We want to make sure that the customer coming from Google and landing on a page with an item that has sold is not at a dead end. So, if an item has sold we present the customer with other alternatives from the same designer or maker:
On site search
On site search is used in tandem with other ways to browse and find, such as the navigation and themed and curated areas, like featured items. But search is important to support goal or directed search where people have a clear idea of what they’re looking for. This is well known so I’m just going to describe how search differs in the new designs. In fact search will behave very similarly to the way it does on the site now. This is because we released the search technology last night (better not to do everything at once). We built this search to:
- Be simpler: you now have two options to search across items or for shops
- Be inclusive: we include supplies in the default search (rather than have to search across these separately). This is something people have been asking for for months, so we’re pleased to deliver this.
- Be more comprehensive: you can find items or shops by having just part of a term. For example, when searching for “Fink” across shops you get three relevant results (whereas you would have had to have used the exact match before):
Also, in future releases we’re going to introduce the ability to refine your search by category and sub-category.
- Be more stable: the search solution we used previously was less stable and was in part responsible for performance issues at busy times. We’re now using Elastic Search an excellent up-to-date search technology we can adapt to our needs.
What you won’t see:
- Searching across Makes. Makes are going to be treated differently on Folksy. They will no longer be part of the core navigation but will be archived and future Makes will be commissioned and promoted through content areas like this blog and Frankly where they may be themed with other content to be more relevant.
Browsing is a form of search, but it is less directed.
Different navigational aids on a website support people in browsing and ambient findability in different ways. The main navigation is a jumping off point to funnel our browsing behaviour and also stimulate us to think about what to buy, for instance buying a gift for a father may involve defining the parameters (men > accessories) without defining the actual thing (for example, satchel).
What we’ve adopted for this release is very different from what it replaces. The current site has a very simple main navigation with only one tab that gives you a view on items then fourteen categories as well as the ability to browse by practice and by material.
Folksy’s new navigation has seven sections, which follow a proven retail pattern. Each section has a set of categories and also sub-categories, more than already exist. These categories and sub-categories are designed to be more familiar and intuitive patterns, allowing people to scan quickly and therefore make Folksy more usable:
The list of categories and sub-categories is under review and until Tues 15th November. We are asking designers and makers to submit suggestions for categories based on:
- Exclusive – they should be as exclusive as possible with as little overlap with other categories as possible
- Stock – do enough pieces of work exist on Folksy to make that category a viable place?
- Well understood concept – is your suggestion one that is well understood and used? If so, please show some examples
Whilst practices are no longer a way into the site, materials are supported in the new filtering functionality, below. We found practices were relatively unused as a navigational device, although feedback we’ve had from designers and makers is that they like looking at peers in their areas of practice. However, with a renewed focus on gift buying and optimising for gift buying customers practices for now have been culled. We’ll be reviewing this decision going forward as we’ll be reviewing the category list / taxonomy on Folksy.
Listing in more than one category
For the time being these sections, categories and sub-categories are exclusive. However, we will be giving people the option to list in multiple categories in subsequent releases. For people making things that are suitable for both men and women or that are items for more than one room on the house, or for weddings and also as an accessory, for example, you can show your work to more people in the relevant places.
From the moment you start using the navigation in the new designs you are able to quickly scan the categories and jump to either the category or sub-category page. Due to the large amount of work on Folksy it’s critical we support customers in narrowing down to a selection of items that is manageable as quickly as possible. For the Home and Garden section you can quickly grok (interpret) the categories and sub-categories in the section:
Filters on category and sub-category pages are also crucial in allowing people to refine their product list, as the simplified view below shows:
Finding and Ambient Findability
The process of finding things is not straight forward. We might start off searching or browsing for something in particular but through following other links and seeing other images we find ourselves somewhere we didn’t intend to be. Generally speaking this is a good thing for sites which engage people with lots of different ways to browse and find. Often called ambient findability, designing for this sort of behaviour is increasingly important and we’ll be doing all we can to support it. One example from the new designs is easier ways to glance at what other things a designer makes from an item page:
Of course people find their way onto Folksy from other sites too. Twitter and Facebook are important in bringing new visitors to Folksy and increasingly ‘bookmarking’ sites like Svpply and Pinterest that allow people to curate theme lists of items from around the web, are also important. Designing for the through flow of traffic and eyeballs as they pass through Folksy is important, we don’t assume we have peoples’ attention, we have to earn it. We’re doing that through some of the design features and functions we’ll talk about in the final blog post on the new re-designs, later this week. Features and functions for utility and for delight.
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