As a longtime devoted user of amazon.com I have just grumbled occasionally about its Rube Goldberg-ian website but online holiday shopping has me irritated enough to blog.
Over the years, merchandising warrior Amazon has steadily added extremely useful and compelling features to its shopping experience. The powerful search, review and recommendation aspects have saved me a tremendous amount of time over raw Googling and have introduced me to people and items I might have otherwise never known existed. That keeps me coming back and building a wishlist that scares even Santa.
But with that under-the-hood engineering has come a visual bloatware situation that can bog down the mightiest of machines. The exploding page content combined with continually-degrading response time makes me wonder how heavily Jeff Bezos and company are invested in computer technology, especially monitors. I’m only half-kidding.
One growing technology of which they seem to be blissfully unaware is the fast advance of mobile computing. The iPhone and Maemo devices, for example, demonstrate the near-future of internet usage: in your hand, available anywhere, and on tiny screens.
Amazon.com’s current design paradigm barely works for underpowered desktops and laptops and is nearly nonfunctional on handheld devices. The current site design demands large screens and lots of processing power. True, mobile computers are seeing significant CPU progression but it hasn’t kept up… and of course the screens are small for a very good reason.
It seems to me that while Amazon is certainly keeping up with our purchasing needs with technical aspects, it’s allowed aesthetics to take a distant back seat– almost as if they are unaware of the so-called Web 2.0 (r)evolution. Too much content is thrown up too often, resulting in not just a processing roadblock for handheld devices but also for the human brain. Or maybe it’s just me, but I find myself getting lost lately on a site that years ago I could navigate with ease. A few days ago I tried buying a friend something on their wishlist, and Amazon kept insisting on sending it to ME by default. Isn’t the safer assumption that it’s going to THEM? Bottom line, I was stumped by the messy checkout trail and could not figure out how to make this happen. Amazon, you lost a sale. Are you keeping track of those metrics? I would assume so.
I’m not a professional website designer so I can’t dissect this down into an action plan, but surely Amazon can hire the right people to redesign the beast– from the ground up I would hope. Make the navigation much more context-sensitive so that I only have to deal with options and UI elements relevant to my immediate or anticipated needs (and I will give Amazon credit here: its “anticipation engine” is second to none). And create a version democratically friendly to the iPhone, Maemo, Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. And future Kindles, too.