Reworked SurLaTable.com Navigation & Taxonomy

If you had visited surlatable.com two years ago and looked at our global navigation, you could suss out the structure of our merchandising team.

We promoted ten categories of merchandise, matching the ten internal merch teams, and used language based on industry terminology instead of what our customers themselves used.

I picked up the lead on rethinking our global navigation after the idea was proposed by an outside agency. One decision they made that internal stakeholders liked: Shifting from nouns to more action-oriented language. “Cooking” instead of “cookware,” for example, or “baking” instead of “bakeware.”

One of the first things I did was an online card sort, taking the proposed categories from the agency and giving our testers 67 pictures of products as cards to sort. Though we seeded the test with some categories, testers had the option to add new ones or rename the categories we gave them. (I gave customers pictures rather than names to avoid nudging them towards one category or another, and to make sure they were envisioning the same product even if they used a different name for it.)

The card sort gave us tons of information. A few examples:

  • Knives could sit under Cooking, and should be called “Knives” instead of “cutlery”

  • No one outside the company used the word “electrics,” strongly preferring “appliances”

  • People sorted appliances by function, rather than expecting a separate, top-level category

  • Some subcategories and products needed to live under multiple top-level categories — aprons, for example, were commonly placed in three different categories

  • People were comfortable putting products related to other beverages (hot chocolate, soda makers) under a Coffee & Tea top-level category

Based on that feedback, we were able to put together a functioning version of a proposed new product taxonomy and put it in front of real users. Based on their feedback, we made some tweaks both on categorization and how our flydown menus worked, and ended up launching the redesign navigation on schedule with minimal fuss.

Results: This was a tough one to track — the stated goals for the project didn’t boil down to hard numbers. “Make the brand more welcoming and customer-focused” was demonstrated through the usability testing, but customers don’t leave that kind of feedback in ForeSee surveys.

However, one thing we did keep a close eye on: The radical change to the look and structure of the site — something that appeared on every page — did not produce a dip in satisfaction scores or an increase in calls to customer service. Customers accepted a big change with no fuss and no loss of revenue.