3 Column or 2 Column? Centered or aligned Left? Full window or only part of the window? Cafe Press prefers a 2 column centered layout. Barnes and Noble prefers a 3 column centered layout. Omaha Steaks prefers a 3 column, full window layout. Which layout do you prefer for your eCommerce web site? Take a look at what the internet's top 100 eTailers chose for their layouts and then let me know what you think! See the complete stats below:
I've divided 'layouts' into 7 categories and provided a link to an example of each:
3 Column, Aligned Left (ex: CVS)
3 Column Center (ex: 1800 Pet Meds)
3 Column Full Window (ex: Amazon)
2 Column Center (ex: Cafe Press)
2 Column, Aligned Left (ex: Neiman Marcus)
2 Column Full Window (ex: Ritz Camera)
1 Column Center (w/ top navigation) (ex: Abercombie & Fitch)
*It's important to note that the layouts of each of the top 100 eTailers were not all consistent throughout the entire site. For the ones that were not consistent, I based their layout designation on which type showed up most frequently throughout the site.
And now for the final numbers.... % is in ( )...and since it's out of 100, things are very simple :)
3 Column, Aligned Left - 3 (3%)
3 Column Center - 10 (10%)
3 Column Full Window - 6 (6%)
2 Column Center - 47 (47%)
2 Column, Aligned Left - 28 (28%)
2 Column Full Window - 4 (4%)
1 Column Center - 2 (2%)
Out of the internet's top 100 eTailers, 79% opted for 2 column layouts while only 19% opted for 3 column layouts and 2% for a 1 column layout. Personally, I was expecting to see the numbers for 3 column and 2 column reversed.
After researching the top 100 eTailers, I've come up with a few conclusions:
Few sites actually have 3 column layouts. Out of the ones that did, the overwhelming majority used the 3rd column for 'recommended' or 'related' products - You probably don't need a right column across all pages; if you do have one, it looks to be a great spot to recommend related products to your visitors.
On 2 column layouts, the navigation was on the left hand side 9 times out of 10 (or on 90% of sites) - Our eyes naturally move from left to right and we like our navigation to be on the left side.
Different industries use different layouts - The type of layout depends on the type of eTailer. For example, two top clothing eTailers, Abercrombie & Fitch and AE.com (American Eagle) opted for a 1 column layout with drop down navigation from the top. With just 1 column, the user focuses solely on the product and its details. Big electronics retailers like newegg.com and IBuyDigital.com chose 3 column layouts that took up the whole screen, probably to make it easier to browse through their huge inventory and hundreds of thousands of product reviews.
I'd love to get some comments on whether you think one layout rules over another or whether it's solely dependent on the type of site- cheers!