In a current project I'm trying to make an argument against a 'major feature' of the homepage of an e-commerce site. The so called feature would be the display of featured products with different tags split up into 4 tabs, each labeled with the tag that the products are grouped by. I think it'd be a bad user interface and I seek your answers to make an informed argument.

Here are both, the interface I stand against and my version of the interface.

The products in tabs.

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My tabless version with actual tags instead.

enter image description here

A bit of background info

  • The site will be responsive, so it must work well on phones.
  • The homepage has the role of introducing the company and showing featured products.
  • The tags will be used to highlight products that are discounted special offers or new for example.
  • A main objective mentioned in the brief was to make the website simple.

My case against the tabbed products and for the tagged products:

  • Items can have multiple tags meaning that this feature could show a product twice or three times which is bad and confusing.
  • Tags on products could just link to a search based on the tag selected so tags could have two functionalities in one.
  • Since the tags are of real temporary nature, they can be changed and probably should be changed frequently. So what if we have 6 tags are we then showing 6 tabs? That would be even more clutter.
  • The homepage will be the only place where this type of interface for products exists. Why force a user to learn an interface that is not reused on the site.
  • Tabs don't seem to be the right metaphor for displaying tagged items, rather than that
  • Since the homepage will be an entry point for many, you shouldn't have to think much to use it.
  • Our objective was simplicity and ease of use and this stirs totally towards a different direction.
  • Because tabs have to have a default open tab we would need to prioritize one of the tabs. Since all of the sections really are equal
  • Many people on ux.stackexchange seem to agree that tabs are not an appropriate solution for presenting sequential information.

Personally I think what it comes down to is that you want to make any website as easy to use as possible, especially responsive e-commerce websites!

However, I'd appreciate if you could somehow add to that. What are good reasons not to have groups of products sepperated into tabs?

  • 3
    By asking "What are good reasons not to have groups of products sepperated into tabs?" it sounds like you've already made up your mind, but you should consider that you may be wrong, and tabs might be the best way to go. Consider restructuring the question so it's more open - "is it better to group them by tabs or not" sort of thing. You'll get a more balanced outcome that way.
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 15:45
  • Good point. I'm open to be convinced but I should have made it clearer I guess. Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


As mentioned in Smashing UX Design by Jesmond Allen and James Chudley of cxpartners, who have many years of experience with high profile retail website, they recommend using tabs in this way with caution as in usability testing they find that people don't always see the tabs.

Tabs typically differentiate unconnected groups of items. Compartmentalizing items of the same category but with different attributes means that the content is disparate, transient and dynamic. It reduces ability to cross-browse between products (switching interest on a whim) and potentially reducing ability for people to remember how to find something on a subsequent visit.

Using tabs, you would be in effect, pre-filtering products at too fine a level, on an assumption that you know how the user wants to interact with them - an assumption which is not necessarily valid.


For the most part I agree that tab is not the correct way to display the information you mentioned.

Can you give an estimate of how many products the company is/might have? Since if the number of products is small (<50) or so, then it can make sense to show all products together on a single page like you suggested. But if the company will be having more products then I would rather switch to a different approach.

  • Just show the featured/discounted or some other criteria items on the landing page and then the user can search for a particular category/filter to see those items.

  • I know things can have multiple tags and will be repeated across different searches, but that is not necessarily a negative point. Look at any large ecommerce site.

  • It is completely fine if the tags are changed, the items will show up on the new tags search.

Why not to use tabs:

  • Unless the user is an experienced user of the site, it is too much work for him to go through the tabs and make sense of it. Even though you make good labels for the tabs, the interpretation may not be the same across all the users.

  • Again, if it is a repeat customer coming to the site and you keep changing the tabs all the time, it is quite hard for him to get a grip of the UI.

  • Generally, tab group for such a scenario does not make sense since, you're basically giving the user pre-searched groups in a manner. Always better to give the user the control to search/query.

  • Sorry maybe my question should have been clearer. I'm not really looking for alternative solutions but rather good reasons for not using the tabbed approach. Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 14:58
  • Edited the answer. Added reasons.
    – rk.
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 15:03

To add on Roger Attrill's answer (i cannot comment yet so i post an answer), and because your items can be part of different categories, taxonomy would fit better. You could search for new items, discounted items, or new and discounted items (even if that's probably not a good real life example).

I agree that tabs can be confusing if items are found in both tabs.

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