Multilevel Menu Design Caters to Distinct Users at Chewy

Multilevel Menu Design Caters to Distinct Users at Chewy

The Trilogy of Information Architecture: Users, Content, and Context

An essential design component of a user-centered website is the integration of information architecture during the design process. In the book Information Architecture by Rosenfield, Morville, and Arango, the authors introduce a concept they have termed “information ecology” which includes the three principles of information architecture: users, content, and context (24). Effective implementation of information architecture within website design requires the thoughtful inclusion of these principles.

The hierarchical structure of information should cater to users by addressing their expectations and needs within the website design. Data gathered from user research analyses should be used to develop a plan for what content should be included and how the content should be organized. The information architecture of a site should also be influenced by the contextual objectives of the company or organization that owns the site.

At its most basic level, though, the aim of information architecture is to determine an information hierarchy for a site by grouping related information. -Writing For Digital Media, Brian Carrol (103)

Chewy's Purposeful Implementation of Multilevel Menus

I have selected the website Chewy as the subject of this information architecture in web design analysis. Chewy retails pet supplies and its primary users are pet owners. On its landing page, Chewy prominently features dog and cat supplies as its main offerings. This suggests that most of Chewy's users are likely dog and cat owners who would be primarily interested in content featuring dog and cat supplies. As a commerce site, the contextual objective of Chewy is to offer a convenient and affordable avenue for pet owners to have pet necessities delivered to their residence, saving them time and money.

Chewy’s homepage features a relatively simple six item menu with strategically chosen categories. The first menu option that users are likely to observe and select at the top left of the screen is the “Shop” category. Chewy’s design emphasizes the importance of the Shop section by using a larger size font for its label.

Within the Shop menu there is a dropdown multilevel menu that displays three sublevels of menus. The first sub level prompts a user to easily filter desired products by selecting the type of pet the user is shopping for. Again, the dog and cat are featured at the top of the menu. The next lower-level menu organizes items from left to right by the likelihood of a user needing the type of item. Here the first type of item offered is what pet owners most frequently purchase: food. The third sublevel of menu suggests the user filter by type of food such as dry or wet. Chewy also modifies its second and third level submenus depending on the type of pet, demonstrating that Chewy responds to diverse user needs by curating its informational hierarchy to create distinct navigational pathways. For example, within the dog category the second sublevel category is treats, but within the cat category, the second sublevel category is litter and accessories.

Chewy's dropdown submenu as presented under the Shop menu.

The last item listed on Chewy’s submenu is farm animal. This section is visually sparse compared to the attention to detail within the dog and cat section. The farm animal submenus are relatively non-descriptive compared to the higher ranked sections. In the lowest level section, the user is still shopping by animal type such as goat or pig. The difference between these first and last submenu items delineates the relative importance of the categories.

Chewy’s has designed its website with concise labels that help guide users through content. For example, the subpage for dry dog food features selectable categories like “No Corn No Wheat No Soy” and “Science-Based”. These categories contain a much higher degree of specificity than the “Adult” category, but the labels still give a user clear indication of the type of content that would be presented if a user selected one of the categories.

Same Query, Different Results

I decided to test the functionality of Chewy’s search bar by searching for “Science-Based dry dog food” and comparing the results to the results returned by simply selecting the icon labeled “Science-Based”. Both methods returned options such as Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet, and Purina Pro Plan which are all marketed as being superior to other dog food brands. The latter method returned a subjectively reasonable number of 230 results while the former returned an unreasonable number of 2245 results. To further narrow the 2245 results, I drilled down the selection to Purina Pro Plan and obtained 310 results. This tells me that all Purina Pro Plan is not tagged as science-based, or some irrelevant results were returned in my query. It also indicates to me that Chewy may have an unclear product tagging system for its products. A user would need to perform further research and would possibly navigate away from Chewy's site to do so.

Screenshot of search results for "dry dog food science-based" showing 2245 results.

Emulating Chewy's Multilevel Menu Structure

My own website, awilliamson, would benefit from inclusion of information architecture principles. The site four menu items on my homepage, one of which is a resources section that contains one drop down item. It is not clear what type of resources will be offered if a user were to navigate to the resources section. I think my most effective course of action for my site would be the development of a topical organization system for my menu. Similar to Chewy’s design, my submenus will need to be concise but utilize multiple levels to help users quickly navigate to desired content. For example, a first sublevel menu item might be labeled "Instrumental Analyses" with a second sublevel labeled "Ion Chromatography".

Ashley Williamson

Ashley Williamson

I am working toward a Master of Business in Professional Leadership at MGA and have a Bachelor of Chemistry from Georgia Southern Univ. I work as a chemist with a concentration in electroplating.