Round 2: Update to WooCommerce 3.5.1+ before WordPress 5.0

How to Level Up Your Store’s Category Pages

Written by Nicole Kohler on March 18, 2016 Blog, Managing products.

Much of the eCommerce advice you’re going to find online will talk about improving your product pages, your shopping cart, or some crucial element within. And why not? These are important aspects of an online store that determine whether a purchase is made or lost.

But we often see some of the other pages and moving parts of stores overlooked, even though they also play a huge role in the sales process. And one of those oft-neglected items is the category page, which some stores use to classify multiple similar items into one landing or destination page accessible from the homepage or navigational menu.

Though they may seem like little more than a temporary destination between the homepage and “meat” of your store — the product pages — well-utilized category pages can play an important role in your long-term success. With a few tweaks, they can improve your search engine rankings, make your store look better, and boost your sales. What’s not to love?

Here are a few ways you can take your category pages to the next level with just a little creativity and elbow grease.

Start by adding copy

Copywriting is something you’ve probably had some practice with for your product pages and homepage, but otherwise, your application of it might be limited. Well, bust out those creative writing chops because you’re going to need them.

Just like product pages, your category pages should each have a paragraph or two of descriptive copy on them. This addition of text will ultimately serve a few purposes:

  • As a general rule, it will make the page look less dull and boring
  • It should confirm that shoppers are in the right place — if the category is named “appliances,” the copy should mention this, as well as the specific appliances sold, etc.
  • It will give search engines (like Google) context and reason to include the page in rankings — if Google wants to rank all of the authoritative, helpful pages on the topic of kitchen appliances, adding copy to your category page gives it a better chance at showing up, since the copy adds information and even a few keywords
Copywriting on your category pages serves a few purposes: it tells shoppers what each category contains, it makes the page look less bare, and it gives search engines crucial context clues.
Copywriting on your category pages serves a few purposes: it tells shoppers what each category contains, it makes the page look less bare, and it gives search engines crucial context clues.

You don’t have to go overboard with the copy on these pages, of course — 200-300 words or so will do it, or you can just do what feels and looks comfortable to you, based on your store’s theme or design. Try to keep in mind that a single page of copy won’t make or break your SEO, either — it will just add a bit more context overall — so it’s not something to stress out about too much.

Make your product images larger

Teensy-weensy product images are problematic no matter where they appear. If your shoppers have to squint to make out the detail in your thumbnails or (yikes) “full-size” photos, that’s a problem.

Even just a few years ago, it was fine for thumbnails to be 100 or 150 pixels wide — after all, with an 800×600 pixel resolution on your CRT monitor, that took up a lot of space! But now, tiny thumbnails or preview images are a pain, especially on laptops with retina displays, large smartphones, or widescreen monitors. The solution: make these images bigger and show more detail.

Nobody likes to squint or lean to see your photos. Pump up those images!
Nobody likes to squint or lean to see your photos. Pump up those images!

To be clear, it’s perfectly fine to use square or rectangular thumbnails of product photos on your category pages. But you should be sure that they’re large enough to show shoppers what each product is without them needing to click through first.

A great example comes from the images at OVER, where their thumbnails look crisp, clear, and highly detailed even on a huge monitor:

Visitors can make purchasing decisions before they even see the price or click through to the product page, thanks to these fantastic thumbnails on the women's category page.
Visitors can make purchasing decisions before they even see the price or click through to the product page, thanks to these fantastic thumbnails on the women’s category page.

You can learn how to adjust the sizes of all of your product images — and avoid blurriness and distortion when you do so — by reading this article in our docs.

Concerned about making your images too big? We have you covered there, too — have a look at this post on small, yet gorgeous, compressed photos.

Add eyecatching, relevant header images

So far, the ideal category page in your mind’s eye has some copy on it, plus some larger-than-average product thumbnails. What else would you expect to find here?

When we talked about product copywriting, we briefly mentioned using copy to confirm that the shopper has arrived in the right place. For example, if your category is named “socks,” one would expect the following page to contain, well, links to pairs of socks. The content on this landing page serves as a quick confirmation that yes, you’re going to find socks here, and here’s what they look like.

Another way to assist with this confirmation — and to make your once-boring category pages look amazing — is to add large header images. For example, have a look at what Colourpop does with the images that appear on their brows category page…

Caption
There’s one image here…

… and the different image that is used on the category page for lips.

... and a completely different image here.
… and a completely different image here.

Both of the category images used pertain to the products pertained within, so the shopper knows they’re in the right place and looking at the right thing. They’re also very eyecatching and interesting, and right on brand for Colourpop as well.

Adding some simple images like this can make otherwise boring category pages look fantastic in a matter of minutes. You don’t have to do a lot of work to get the pictures to use, either — just grab a camera, put some of your products in a nice setting or with an appropriate model, and snap a few shots. (Or, if photography isn’t your strong suit, you can always hire someone to help you out!)

Link to sources of inspiration, like customer photos, stories, or projects

Sometimes a shopper ends up on one of your category pages because they kind of know what they’re looking for, but aren’t certain. So they browse around the top-level pages and destinations on your store until they find something that looks good, or sends them in the direction of an item that strikes their fancy.

For these interested-but-not-convinced customers, sometimes getting the sale isn’t a matter of showing them an item that looks nice or a review that makes you sound greatit’s showing them the potential of your brand and its products, and what you can offer them.

If you're already collecting photos or stories from customers, reuse them on these pages to convince shoppers to take a chance on you.
If you’re already collecting photos or stories from customers, reuse them on these pages to convince shoppers to take a chance on you.

To do this, designate your category pages as place to show off any user-generated content, projects, stories, or fun photos you’ve collected. These are often general items (as opposed to product-specific) that you can use for the purpose of showing how customers are loving you as a whole.

So if you have a customer quote, photograph, story, or even a project to show off, put it right on (or linked from) the category page that seems most appropriate. Not only will it add a little interest, it’ll show these undecided visitors what other shoppers have found to love about you and your brand… and perhaps convince them that they, too, should be giving you a try.

Make all your category links visible, just in case your shopper isn’t in the right place

One final suggestion: cater to the shoppers who might click on the wrong link or end up in the wrong spot.

This doesn’t mean adding manual links to your other categories to every page. But what it does mean is making sure that your navigation menu is visible at all times, so that visitors who change their mind, realize they’re in the wrong place, or simply want to look at something else can do so without clicking the back button ten times or unnecessarily visiting your homepage.

So if you’re thinking about hiding your menus or doing any other visual tricks to make these pages look “neat,” don’t. Category pages should look great, true, but it’s more important that they be a functional gateway to another destination than they be gorgeous pieces of artwork. Consider the experience of your users first, then appearance.

Category pages are important — give them a little flair!

There are nearly endless things you can do to improve an online store’s effectiveness. You might not have thought that optimizing your category pages could make such a big difference, but these pages are just as important as any other component of your store.

By adding a little copy, increasing the size of your photos, or adding some well-placed links or content, you’ll be prepared to take these once-dull landing pages to the next level. Try out one or two of these strategies for yourself and see what happens!

Have any questions about making your category pages more effective? Add them in the comments below and we’ll get an answer to you right away.

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18 Responses

  1. Jack
    March 31, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    Is it possible to do the same thing to tag archive pages in any way? I’ve already done the above to my categories but never managed to find a way to do it for tags.

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 1, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

      Hey Jack, to the best of my knowledge you’d want to do this the same way you would with a basic WordPress site. There’s a pretty handy introduction to modifying tag archive pages in WordPress in the Codex: https://codex.wordpress.org/Tag_Templates Hope that helps 🙂

      • Åsa
        April 26, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

        Hi! Is there something dimilar for attribute pages that you know of?

  2. Tazuloo
    April 2, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

    Dear Nicole
    This is definitively an interesting and inspiring article that I can absolutely recommend. There is nothing more boring out there for customers than an unemotional looking category page listing simply all products. Adding eye-catching and relevant header images gives category pages the necessary emotional flair you mentioned which they, unfortunately, pretty often are missing. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips with the community.

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 4, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed this Tazuloo 🙂

  3. Keizer
    April 26, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    Nice article, but I cant find out how to replace the category page by a full custom page per category with for example visual composer.

    Any ideas on that one?

    • Douglas
      April 27, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

      Me too!

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 28, 2016 at 2:42 am #

      Hey Keizer, unfortunately you’ve got me there! I would tag in support for the creator of your theme to check on that to be 100% sure. I haven’t used a theme with visual composer support for over a year so unfortunately I can’t even begin to guess. Maybe someone else can jump in and help though 🙂

  4. Steven
    April 26, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    I have already added content to one of my category pages on Woocommerce, when I wrote a couple of paragraphs I found it pushed the product pictures halfway down the page. Is there a way of putting the category content at the bottom of the page leaving the category product pictures at the top of the page?

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 28, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      For this you would likely want to modify your category template to choose where the copy, images, etc. appear. There’s a page in the WordPress Codex (linked earlier in these comments) that can help you with this.

  5. Stephan Zwanikken
    April 27, 2016 at 10:52 am #

    Maybe it’s me, but I cannot seem to find how to add category pages. Is it because of the theme I use “Definition”? How do I add category pages?

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 28, 2016 at 3:05 am #

      Hey Stephan, not sure how your specific theme handles categories (I would consult their support for help there) but typically when you create a category in WooCommerce, a new page is created for it.

      If you look here: https://docs.woocommerce.com/document/managing-product-taxonomies/ … You’ll see that you can find your categories by navigating to Products > Categories. By default, you can view your product category pages by navigating (manually) to:

      yourstoreurlhere.com/product-category/categorynamehere/

      This will show you how your category pages currently look.

      You can read about modifying category page templates via the WordPress Codex here: https://codex.wordpress.org/Category_Templates

      I hope this helps!

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

      Also see this page on adding categories to your WooCommerce navigation/menu: https://docs.woocommerce.com/document/docs-menus/

      This will make them visible.

  6. Paul
    April 27, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    Same as some of the others – how do I find or create a category page. There is some description available when you create a category along with a disclaimer that not all themes will display it and Divi doesn’t. Even so there is no easy way to format this description anyway so it would not be suitable for doing the subject of this (excellent) blog post.

    At the moment I am having problems even displaying the category page and its thumbnail without showing any products !

    Thanks for the article anyway – someone must know how to make a category page 🙂

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 28, 2016 at 3:09 am #

      Hey Paul, that’s really frustrating that some themes won’t allow you to create or show category pages.

      You might be able to get around that by creating pages, doing some styling with CSS, and manually linking your products from them… but it’d be a lot of work, if you have a lot of products.

      Echoing the reply I just posted above, though, if you do get your theme cooperating:

      If you look here: https://docs.woocommerce.com/document/managing-product-taxonomies/ … you’ll see you can find your categories by navigating to Products > Categories. If your theme allows you 😉 you can view your product category pages by navigating (manually) to:

      yourstoreurlhere.com/product-category/categorynamehere/

      You can read about modifying category page templates via the WordPress Codex here: https://codex.wordpress.org/Category_Templates

      Let me know if there are any other questions I can help with.

  7. Paul
    April 28, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    Hi Nicole

    Thanks for taking the time to help 🙂

    I am still confused though. I can understand that my theme (Divi) is not optimised for Woocommerce but I have just swapped over to Storefront on my development site and even in there I cannot see anywhere to create a Category page.

    It is a shame because the more I think about it and having read the blog above again the concept of using a nice powerful category page would really suit my products. The home page would just be a brief introduction to the company and a bit of eye candy and then the visitor would be asked to visit the category page where there would be an overview of the products.

    I will keep digging !

    • Nicole Kohler
      April 28, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

      Hey Paul – when you create a category on your store, a page is automatically created with it.

      You can find them, if they aren’t visible by default, by navigating to your store’s URL, inputting /product-category/ and then the name of a category.

      So for example, one of our categories is available at https://woocommerce.com/product-category/woocommerce-extensions/

      If you check out this page on adding categories to menus: https://docs.woocommerce.com/document/docs-menus/ This will show you how to make your category pages (which, again, are created automatically every time you create a category) visible on your store.

      I hope that helps a bit.

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