I'm redesigning a e-commerce website that uses a global browse/search mechanism in the form of an alphabet megadropdown. There are a LOT of different brands and products, so the intent of the alphabet is clearly to make browsing/searching simpler. However, I'm wondering if there is a better way to implement something like this in a way that provides a better user experience.

Another approach to this is something like Newegg (http://www.newegg.com/ProductSort/BrandList.aspx?Depa=0&name=All-Brands) does, which is a single button that redirects a user to basically a sitemap. However, my concern with the approach is that the amount of SEO keywords on the home page would probably take a hit, and requiring the user to head to another page might be a little too much.

Any suggestions for how to approach this? Either a nice/clean way to incorporate the alphabet, or some benefits to doing something like the newegg approach?

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    On a B2B website where the catalog is huge, this is actually a very practical approach to the problem of so many items. In this case, speed and practicality are much more important for usability than looks (although there's nothing wrong with making it look good!). Jul 25, 2012 at 21:51

2 Answers 2


The "bubbles" definitely have to go! I would tend to agree with you, but at the end of the day, it's his company and what he says goes. One argument you could try would be to tell him that a separate page with all the brands/items could lead the visitor to notice something there that they hadn't realized was related to that company, or impress them with the amount of brands represented by the company.

Failing that, you might try listing the alphabet down the right side; it would act more like a sidebar and wouldn't be so visually intrusive. I'd also consider not having each letter in its own shape, but simply listed in a smallish font size.

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    The jelly bean school of design -- a favorite among people who lack taste but somehow landed in the field of design. An erstwhile colleague of mine could never understand my loathing for it. Jul 25, 2012 at 21:46

The basic concept looks to be like a so-called "Mega-dropdown". It's something that has been growing in popularity for a few years now: brilliant when done well, infuriating when done badly.

I've never seen an alphabetical one before, but for a specialist shop where expert customers will come with a number of very specific terms in mind and will want to gauge what range of their specialist needs your site actually serves, it seems to make sense. Don't forget that expert audiences are very different to casual audiences.

Loads of room for improvement in the visuals though... Google about a bit for good examples, galleries and discussions of sites that use mega-dropdowns to see what works and what doesn't. There's a fairly neat intro to mega-dropdowns at the end of this Smashing article that might get you started, and the Gateway example they give is probably relevant to your case:

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  • Yeah I was actually thinking about doing it kind of like how barnes and nobel does it (barnesandnoble.com) Jul 25, 2012 at 15:09
  • Great answer! I've not come across that term, but it fits well. Jul 25, 2012 at 21:52

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