Category: UX advice / Ecommerce guides

6 tips for great ecommerce product finders

I was recently doing some home improvements and needed a new skylight/roof window. Of course I went online but this wasn’t just a case of picking one of many options from Amazon. I needed to buy the exact right thing and get it installed, otherwise it would be very costly to change.

I tried browsing categories and searching on a few sites but it was hard to be certain I was getting the right thing (did I want a laminated finish?). I also wasn’t sure if the sites were showing me all the options (does this size come in other colours?). I needed help.

Sometimes finding exactly the right product can be a challenge. Particularly if the user is looking for something they buy very rarely or for something that has technical requirements they just can’t get wrong.

If this is the case then your ecommerce site might just benefit from a finder tool. Something that allows the users to answer a few questions and get back a recommendation of the product they need.

There are a few third party tools out there for creating product finders so you don’t even need to custom-build one. On my roof window search I found a product finder powered by a company called Zuvoo, which was pretty decent, and helped me discover the window I needed.

Of course being a geek about these things I then spent a bit of time looking at the finders they’ve created for others stores. They’re pretty similar but some work better than others.

From this research I’ve discovered six things that are required to make a great product finder…

Make the questions easy

The purpose of a product finder is to quickly get a user from a confused state to a product, via a few questions. To do this the questions need to be very easy to answer. If you start asking users too many specifics then there’s a high chance they won’t know the answers, and will remain stuck.

Ideally you should have questions that the user can answer off the top of their head, without having to go hunting for the answer. Make the effort to make it simple for them.

Easy questions on a product finder

Educate where needed

If you do need to ask users a few more detailed questions, then use the question as a chance to inform them and show knowledge. Add in tooltips and helper text so they can reach the right answer.

For example, on the shredder site below the user might be a bit unclear as to whether they work with classified information. The tooltip text tells them that legal and government organisations fall into this category.

Questions like this show the user that the makers of the website know their stuff whilst educating them that there are different types of shredder to watch out for on the market.

Educating users in a product finder

Be visual

A lot of the best finders use imagery within their questions, as a picture makes things a lot less ambiguous than words. In the tap example below you could just present these choices of finish in text form to the user, but images ensure that the website and user are referring to exactly the same thing.

Using images on a product finder

Show number of results

If you have lots of products on your site then consider showing how the number of matching results changes as the users answer their questions. This is a great way of indicating that the website is doing some useful sorting for them. It can also help them see if there is a particular answer that massively reduces the options available, so if they don’t feel strongly they could choose to answer it a different way.

Number of product results shown on a product finder

Give product options

Once the user has answered all of the questions the website should present them with the products that match their results. When doing this it’s often worth presenting more than one product. By presenting only one you’re placing a lot of faith in your finder being perfect.

Your tool should have helped the user whittle down their options a lot but it’s often a good idea to give them a bit of choice so they feel as if they have some say in the matter. If you can’t present enough products that exactly match their answers, you could show some that are close and indicate where they differ.

Bike product finder showing four results

Helpful and friendly

Ultimately this product finder is meant to help the user and there are many ways you can do that, not just by returning a result. A lot of that can be down to the tone of voice used in the copy and instructions.

The fact that the user is using this finder means they probably don’t know the sector very well, and so the text can ease any concerns, and help explain why certain questions are being asked. The example below shows a helpful tone and assures the user that they have product options no matter how they answer.

Fireplace product finder with helpful copy

Found it

You’ll probably know from the type of product that you sell as to whether or not a product finder makes sense for your site. You should have a good idea as to how clued up your customers tend to be.

A lot of ecommerce sites sell products where the differences are highly subjective and so the choice is down to the taste of the user. But even then, if you get a lot of returns or confused customer enquiries, you might just find that a good finder saves you and your users a lot of hassle.

Last updated on 23 October 2019
Designing Ecommerce Websites free ebook

Articles on similar topics

6 tips to curate your ecommerce design and focus on products

How much product choice should you give users? A psychology tip.

How to create mobile-friendly search filters – the key principles