The e-commerce site I am working on currently only has a search bar in the header. We are adding a "Shop By" dropdown in the header where customers can select different categories to browse by. The problem now is figuring out how those two functions interact.

I've been told repeatedly that if a customer selects to "Shop By" a category, they will then be drawn to perform a search, and expect their search results to be filtered by the category they had previously chosen.

I can provide two different examples. On Etsy, if you select to Browse by, for example, Art, you are taken to a page with art-related products. If you then perform a search, that search is performed in All Categories, and you can filter from there. On Amazon, you can shop by department - and when you select a department, it shows up on the search bar and your next search will be just within that department.

On our site, selecting to shop by a category simply takes them to a search page that filters products by the selected category. When should we choose to maintain the pre-selected filters, and when should we start a brand new search for the user? How can we predict what our customers will want to see?

3 Answers 3


Use Search and Filter

Let your main search to be available always to perform a search in all categories. Once user chooses a category from the shop by drop down. Provide him the products which you think what he is looking for according to your analytics. Now allow him to filter on the selected shop by/category.


Let the search hang there when ever user feels like he is searching something in a different category altogether then let him do a search.Place search also on top of your screen so that user can do a search without scrolling up all the way back to top.


You can provide the filter option as a left panel or just below your main navigation and the search. It would be great if you can keep the filter in view always without loosing much real estate in the screen. You need be smart in providing the filter options. Give options which enables the user to drill down to the item he is looking for, like brands, price range, size, color etc.


You can give search list according to the category selected by the user but in the search field if the user types for a product name there you can suggest products of same name in different category. So the user will get an idea about the product even if they don't know the exact category of the product.

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Always search in category user is in. So if she is at root, search in all categories, and when inside a category, search in that.

Now it is important to let the user know this and have an option to switch to all results.

This can be done in multiple ways. By having the search category always near the search bar, or having a clear heading like : "Results for shoes. Search in all categories".

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