Web and UX Design Amazing Amazon
What They Do
Amazon’s website Amazon.com is basically a very sophisticated and specialized search engine. Its advantage over something like Google is its attention to the meta-data. Meta-data (for example a products price, its specifications, its size and weight) are often difficult to harvest from the web. If you have ever used a database, like Microsoft’s Sharepoint, finding relevant documents is always a problem. Searching for “profit margin” results in thousands of documents were the word “profit margin” is mentioned because, unfortunately, nobody takes the time to add Meta-data to that brilliant company report they spent so much time writing.
Amazon’s products are replete with meta-data, so searching is much more focused and relevant. The meta-data is supplied by the motivated producers of the products they are selling (and intelligently harvested by Amazon).
But Amazon takes it a step further. Amazon was one of the first to introduce the concept exploiting the customers meta-data – either from you as a customer or the statistics of other consumers interested in the same or related products you are looking for (figure 2). This was a very smart marketing move and essentially turned it into a two-way high functioning search machine.
So this reveals what Amazon finds most important – speed. You need to find what you want and find it fast. If you takes you 30 minutes to find on the site what you want, but only ten minutes to drive to the Mall and see touch smell and feel stuff, why to bother with the website. Earlier websites were slow and in those days people were often paying by the minute to be Online. Plus Amazon has the added disadvantage that products still take a few days and even up to a week to be delivered. Consumers are so used to instant gratification that this has motivated Amazon even to invest seriously in delivery by drone. Although this is still in the future, and may just be a marketing trick at the moment, after seeing a video of ten drones flying in perfect formation through a house, the technology certainly exists.
So how does Amazon design its UX experience so that the consumer finds what he wants, understands what he wants, pays for what he wants, understands when he is going to get it and is happy with the result.
The verbiage on Amazon is well crafted, with the occasional misser (figure 3). The meta-data helps, as does the inclusion of showing what other customers also bought. Amazon leveraged its success with this further with things like “Customers Who Bought Items in Your Recent History Also Bought…, “Recommendations for You…”, “Your Recently Viewed Items…”, “Frequently Bought Together” (so you don’t forget those batteries that are not included) and contextual “Sponsored Recommendations”. Add to this “Customers who viewed this item also viewed…“. I think this is sometimes overkill. However, I’m sure the crew at Amazon crunch the statistics regularly and if anything seems redundant then its removed. The shopping cart has gone through many transformations, with Amazon being one of the first to introduce the one-click button (figure 5). Mega-menus are used everywhere, with the now ubiquitous and useful mega-footer. Great use of customer reviews and star ratings help with the user’s decision-making process (figure 7).
The name Amazon was chosen because it was close to Amazing, begins with the letter A (top of the lists) and easy to remember. The logo is a smile that points from A to Z (something I didn’t get until I read it, but these things are often subliminal.)
However, this brings me to my main criticism of the website. Launched in 1995, the website from 1998 (figure 1), besides textual and content, has not changed significantly. The legacy of the first basic HTML websites, where programmers were coding the layout (the designers were distracted making flashy but useless intro pages) is still seen on these pages. It’s as if Amazon is afraid to fix something that is basically not broken. They understand that their customers are now used to the functionality, have perceived through the pioneer years of HTML and speak fluent Amazon. It works, but it’s not pretty. Figure 4 is a designers nightmare of fonts and colors, it’s as if the Amazon crew just can’t decide what is more important… Add to that the huge designer’s no-no of letting text spread across a wide screen (50 characters are the absolute most -a sample page on my screen is 160 and can go wider). This is just sloppy design.
We have turned a corner from slow Internet speeds, incompatible browsers, and ignorance of UX and web usability. The web has matured, and Amazon lags behind. That said, it’s a function above form website that works very well. It delivers the goods – literally.
The Nuts and Bolts of Amazon
Global Rank 6
Rank in United States 4
Bounce Rate 23%
Daily Page views per Visitor 11.75
Daily Time on Site (min) 11:26
Female and Male, from home work or school
Geography Viewed Rank
United States 57% 6
China 5% 27
South Korea 5% 5
Canada 2% 10
Total Sites Linking In 1,063,192
Speed: Average (1.658 Seconds), 59% of sites are faster.
P.O. Box 81226, Seattle, WA 98108, US