I’ve complained before about the eyeball-assaulting mess of Amazon.com’s entry page, and now it’s time to go a little deeper into that rant.
A noisy site like Amazon.com can work well enough on desktop displays, but not so much on mobile devices. Given that the mobile internet is rapidly becoming the default mode, fixing this soon is an urgent must.
Stripped-down touchscreen apps aren’t the solution, either. They’re great for simple use but for people who require the full experience on-the-go, replicating that complete desktop functionality is a requirement. The trick is how to do so effectively on a 3.5 inch screen.
Somewhere in the middle between dumbed-down apps and a wasteful web page lies web shopper nirvana.
If You Could Read My Mind, Love
Amazon.com is very adept at anticipating your needs based on past history, wishlist content, and other contexts. Combine that with a wizard-type approach to the mobile shopping experience and we’re getting somewhere. The term web service is overused these days but that’s exactly what were looking for here: treat a site like Amazon.com as a “purchasing engine” that can be wrapped up in any sort of user experience (UX). Only expose those portions that the user needs to see at a given time.
One way to achieve this is by taking the anticipation functions further. I don’t know if Amazon can do this yet, but imagine attaching time-bound attributes to perishable goods. One example is guitar strings. They have a typical life expectancy depending on nature and use, and need to be changed on that basis. So in an ideal world I would order a set of strings, and by the time I needed another set my dealer of choice would be ready. Upon logging in I could get a reminder: “it’s been X number of months since you last bought guitar strings; ready to buy another set?” Even better: proactively send me a secure email with a one-click-and-done repurchase link just before my current strings reach their expected limit.
It’s exactly this sort of functionality (combined with the usual tools like Search) that allows us to hide the main site and still get at what we want. Take it even further and pull in your social circle. Your best friend buys a new big-screen TV, and his social network is automatically crawled. The shopping engine notes that it’s football season, and your wishlist and/or purchasing history contain(s) related items. The season schedule is checked for game times, and your friend is asked if he would like to invite anyone in his circle to any or all of the showings. You get an invitation along with a list of recommended items to purchase and bring (or have shipped directly to your friend’s house at the proper time). A calendar object to update your mobile device would be a nice bonus.
It’s a rich service experience like this that sticks customers. I’m sure readers can think of many, many more. For one, throw in location awareness and it’s a whole new game.
The Times They Are A-changin’
Ultimately full websites as we know them today may cease to exist. Mobile predominance will drive significant UX change, and online shopping will be one of the most affected activities. Service providers and UI designers who are getting that now are going to be ahead of the curve when we awaken to the new mobile reality. Get coding! And think mobile.