Dear amazon.com: your service is great, your website not so much

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. 😉

18 responses to “Dear amazon.com: your service is great, your website not so much

  1. Whenever I’m on the iPhone, I use the Amazon app or similar. I know, I know…a single mobile website would be better…but it works just fine. Also, I bought a book from a friend’s wishlist and the default was her address in Puerto Rico, and further more Amazon allowed me to send her additional items on my cart. This is very useful for mafia dons, when they find their enemy’s wishlist they can also send a severed horse head along. Thanks Amazon, for making my protection agency that much more streamlined!

    • I’m opposed to the app solution in principle since it creates siloed experiences– N900 users need a separate app, Android users need a separate app, etc. I’d rather see a rich mobile version with a better drill-down paradigm.

      And I’m still wondering about that “friend wishlist” thing. I don’t understand why my address was the default when I tried, but you properly saw your friend’s address. Why did we have different experiences?

      Anyway, IMO the site is an eyesore and in overdue need of a complete philosophical overhaul rather than continued patching.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I just wrote a rather less elegant rant about how I’m worrying about the fragmented approach to users with respects to the mobile web. Out of all the websites I visit on my Symbian based phone ebay’s mobile site is the worst, I don’t think it’s changed since the 90s.

  3. Joseph Charpak

    amazon has a mobile version.

    It works ok on my N800.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/h.html

  4. Good man keep it up.you always give som good and more usefull information.that help us more.we like it and ur work also.thanks again man

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  7. Awesome! Just got a new phone and I can read your blog on my phone, it didn’t work on my old one

  8. Let me start by saying great post. Im unsure if it has been talked about, but when using Firefox I can never get the whole site to load without refreshing several times. Could just be my laptop. Thanks

  9. Thats in effect an astonishing gadget to receive in my arsenal. Does anybody have aclue where I can purchase it? Any recommendations?

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  11. Hi, first I want to say nice blog. I don’t always agree with your opinion but it’s always a nice read.
    Keep up the good blogging.

  12. Ich habe schon oefters bei Amazon etwas bestellt. Bis jetzt war ich damit sehr amused.
    Amazon sendet die Ware immer sehr flott an mich. Ich kann Amazon sehr empfehlen.

  13. Pingback: Shopping on the go « Tabula Crypticum

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