Dr. Variant strikes again: A supervillain that complicates product catalogs

By Ilana Davis

I was visiting a Shopify store the other day, looking for a hoody, and had to dig through t-shirts (the product) to find a similar design, but in a hoody (a variant).

That’s when it dawned on me. Dr. Variant stuck again!

Dr. Variant is a supervillain that infects Shopify stores with variantitus which appears to be benign but can be deadly. Variantitus complicates the product catalog so much that customers abandon the site and never purchase.

The only way to defeat Dr. Variant is to step back, evaluate your product setup, and use products and variants appropriately.

Think of variants as options for products that are the same product with different colors or sizes.

For example, a shirt may have color options in blue, red, pink, and Hawaiian. The customer can then choose another option for size small, medium, and large. Giving the customer 12 possible combinations for their order (blue small, red medium, pink small, etc).

What is not a variant?

Using the same example above, a shirt is one type of product and a hoody is another. Just because they both are worn on the top half of a person, doesn’t mean they are the same product with options. These two should be their own products.

Generally, I also wouldn’t recommend using variants for genders. When your product comes in women’s, men’s, youth, and/or unisex sizes, it may make sense for these to be individual products as well. This makes browsing for specific sizes much easier too!

Dr. Variant may also advise you to add an app or some javascript to the liquid code in order to show different variants as individual products.

Really, it doesn’t need to be that complicated.

For those Shopify stores who have only one product with two variants, don’t overthink this too much. Make each variant their own product.

If you do make changes to your product listings, don’t forget to set up 301 redirects on the old product URLs and make sure each product has unique content. You don’t want to lose out on the SEO you’ve built up over the years.

If you’re concerned about Dr. Variant and other supervillains like them, you might consider buying my Website Rescues. I highlight common conversion killers like this and clean up dozens of other problems that impact Shopify sites.


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