Filtering: horizontal toolbar vs traditional sidebar. Which one to choose?

October 1, 2020

Sidebar is a traditional way to filter products in online stores. However, many argue that the horizontal toolbar is gradually replacing the classics. Is the horizontal format definitely better than the vertical? What should the sidebar be like to serve the needs of the user? Let’s see at the pros and cons of the two options.

It is believed that the success of the horizontal format for presenting filters and sorting tools lies in more convenient opportunities for presenting goods. Indeed, the ability to use filtering and sorting tools within one screen looks convenient.

Main pros and cons of sidebar and horisontal toolbar

The sidebar requires additional efforts in the search and is not effective in the same way (although in fact, the question is in the quality of implementation).

Do not look for the opportunity to install a horizontal tool immediately. It works well for certain types of websites, but not for all. In fact, the online store of almost every niche has a full opportunity to get along with an effective sidebar. We emphasize that the tool should be thought out in every sense. Only in this way or no way.

The word for horizontal filter

Users believe that the horizontal filter is able to eliminate the inconvenience that sidebars create in front of a certain number of visitors and, as a result, potential buyers. For example, we are talking about the need to look for the right tools in a long list of options that go beyond one screen. Quite often, the sidebar remains banal unnoticed. So, visitors lose the ability to display the desired set of products from the total number and, with a high probability and leave the website.

What are the problems? Practice shows that there are problems in the implementation of the sidebar. It can be visually unattractive when users simply don’t notice the tool. The problems are also created by an uncomfortable structure, overloading with useless functions, or even the technical imperfection of the tool. These problems could be solved with a quality filter plugin, but owners of online stores often do not think about it and are looking for radically new solutions.

What would a functional and fully friendly sidebar look like? Here is a simple example.

Main pros and cons of sidebar and horisontal toolbar

Filtering tools are implemented compactly and clearly. It is easy to see them even in a scenario where the user ignores the side parts of the page and browses the catalog at a glance (intuitively saving the need for filters and sorting, but not finding it). Obviously, a horizontal filter + sorting tool will be striking in this situation, but this is not a categorical axiom for website development. The main thing is to adapt the presentation of the plugin for the sidebar in accordance with the design of the website, but, for example, the same Product Filter for WordPress plugin provides a lot of flexible settings for this.

Sidebar is gaining ground

Here is just a horizontal toolbar that has limited space. If you add all the necessary functions here, an important part of the screen becomes cumbersome. That is, this problem leads to the conclusion that the horizontal tool is optimal for online stores and product catalogs that have a minimum of filtering tools. It is better to leave this part for traditional sorting tools.

As an option, drop-down elements can facilitate their appearance, but they should work like a clock. That is, such a tool can become a serious problem without proper technical optimization. Where sidebar will cause inconvenience, the hanging of a horizontal instrument can become critical for the user experience.

In general, it is a difficult task to create a very convenient and relevant horizontal toolbar that meets the needs and requirements of each niche and each individual site.


The horizontal toolbar is really effective in cases where the number of filtering options is small. Even so, it must be technically perfect. In all other cases, you can safely install the sidebar without losing quality. Above all, choose effective tools. Product Filter for WordPress with Woocommerce serves as good examples of technically competent implementation of the tool, which does not create obstacles for the user, attracts attention and improves conversion.

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