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Are expand/collapse animations (such as jQuery's slideUp/slideDown) a good idea for the categories or refinement hierarchy in an ecommerce site or are they too distracting? Should the expand/collapse just happen instantly when the user clicks? Most major retailers seem to just show and hide the content instantly (many even incur a navigate/postback and redisplay).

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If the first click which expands the menu also links to that first level category page I think it's ok to use, but if you're forcing a user to click once to open the menu, a second time to click to their category you're going to have a lower conversion rate of people getting to the category pages.

Another and better option in my opinion is to have a top level list of categories, no animations when clicked. Simply link to the category pages once on the first level category now on your menu show the sub categories of the parent.

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