Amazon.com UI Update

At SandShop Media we’re always excited about innovation in UI, or User Interface, design. Innovation doesn’t always mean being super-exciting and whiz-bang. Some innovations include the courage of a big-name online retailer to go with a less-is-more approach rather than more-is-more, à la Everybody’s Favorite Design Company, Apple.

Amazon.com’s newly-redesigned interface does a few things simultaneously:

  • promotes content by visually getting the website of the the customer’s way (no more competing yellow!)
  • allows the products to stand out more with increased contrast to the background

Jared Spool mentioned in his talk on The Secret Lives of Links at SXSW 2012 that people scanned webpages for their keywords most of the time, but chose not to do so on Amazon.com, the only site in his testing where the user went straight to the search bar. He mentioned that the design choices made by the Amazon team in terms of advertising and promotion of “useless items” had taught Amazon users that there’s nothing useful on the home page – search to get what you want.

And while the content on the Amazon home page don’t necessarily fix that (the stuffed cats showing up on my Amazon home page are products I have already seen), the search bar is less prominent and the content they’re hoping to entice me to is more prominent. It is my preference as an Amazon user to search for what I want – Amazon’s site is so large and varied that I am certain the Lanky Cats wouldn’t have shown up on my Amazon home page if I hadn’t already searched for them.

It’s interesting that Amazon has decided I am female and that I must like fancy clothes and handbags even though I don’t buy clothes through Amazon, nor do I like fancy clothes and handbags, and that somehow I must need a book that gives me help on winning arguments, but I digress. That’s their algorithm, not their UI design.

I’m not too pumped about the Department navigation on the left that looks like a dropdown I’ve already selected, even though I have done nothing of the kind. The drop-shadow is too dark, and I imagine that will change over a few iterations, though for the life of me I don’t understand why they insist on “departments” when so much of their content doesn’t fit into a department like a traditional department store. I imagine that they have promotional goals to meet with certain products (Android App store for one) but to me it’s useless real estate when the dropdown in the search bar allows you to choose the same thing only search for what you’re looking for instead of wandering aimlessly through their shopping categories.