's Information Design is Still Bad

Ready for a (really) long scrolling post with not much more than a minor, un-life-altering rant? Perfect. Click to Zoom: homepage refresh

Just a note from floating on the web on a Saturday morning.  Today, Amazon seems to be rolling out yet another visual update (beta-tested earlier?); my Amazon home page looks a even more sparse than usual.  It made me think about how much their information hierarchy and resulting customer experience have been sorta both the best and the worst of the web over the years.


A decade ago, used the be the very model of the new, data-driven, intelligently easy-to-use website.  It had perfect "just in time" links and seemed to know where you want to go.  Their tabs interface from the late 90sand into the 2000s was widely copied.

These days, remains one of the top retailers in the US ($18.5 billion), but its website is a glut of chocked together, un-curated information presented in long scrolling pages.  Over the last several years they've tried to recover, and definitely have done better work on cleaning up the main page.  Today they did it again, simplifying the top two inches and giving higher preference to a google-like search bar. All other options are hidden back into drop-down menus.

The Real Problem: The Product Page

The problem is that most of their attention has gone to cleaning up their front page, which I spend very little time on. 80% of the time, I google for a book or product I'm looking for, and jump straight through the search results to the Amazon product page.  Then I jump from product to product.

And let's be honest, the product pages really are pretty bad.  Some key features shine (like "Search Inside" for books) and fortunately the pricing (for book editions at least) is cleanly displayed. But the rest of the page is a disordered, redundant mess of widgets demarcated only by dashed lines and populated by unreliable data.

For instance, I just searched for an iPhone (yep, got one of those now) charger. USB Sync and Charging Cable Compatible with Apple iPhone (White) came up first.  (It's .78 cents.  I'm guessing because of the price the vendor will make up the cost in shipping charges. I had clicked on it because it was Amazon Prime eligible, but of course, that didn't come up first:  I'll have to find the Prime price.  But I digress.)

Is this the charger I want?? Maybe.  Maybe I'll get help to decide by s c r o l l i n g   d o w n...

 (ps - clicking on screenshots quickly zooms in)

Frequently Bought Together

Rarely useful. Almost always promotes redundant purchases. In this case, I'd get two of the same cable. Lots of times you get two versions of the same book.


What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Good idea. Sometimes genuinely useful to find the clear competing product. Not here though.


Technical Details

Warranty and Same-Day Shipping info are not technical details. Almost never a useful section: it's used just as another text field by vendors, and rarely has stuff beyond the main product description even when it's shipped from Amazon. For fun: click the 'See more technical details' naively assuming it will be useful!


Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

customers who bought this

What the heck is the difference between this and two similar sections above?


Product Ads from External Websites

The (What's this?) link actually makes sense here.  Or maybe just an animated Seth Myers "REALLY?" link.


Customer Reviews

The most useful section on the page is buried under "Product Ads from External Websites." Amazon is still subject to many of the online review issues that exist everywhere: low ratings addressing disparate issues (e.g. slow shipping vs. a defective product), and the occasional troll. But on the whole, Amazon's reviews are the best source on the web for the crowd-sense of the product quality. It's why I go to Amazon to check something out.


Related Items

"Related" in the sense that it's related to the other 4 sections nearly exactly like this.


Tags Customers Associate with This Product

Helpful tags include "USB" and "Gift for Mom."


(anyone tired yet?)

Customer Discussions

Another failed new feature. Some amazon discussions do flare up, but they're usually about religious bigotry or the Cubs or both.


Amazon eGift: Send a Gift Card Suggesting This Item

E-Gift Card

This feature looks like something I might use,  had I not learned about it just when writing this post.


Look for Similar Items by Category

Simpler version of the redundant sections above. Better if not buried under 4 pages.



Crowdsourcing data isn't something Amazon seems to have thought a lot about. Buried down here in East Texas of Amazon pages are the links that allow us to report something incorrect on a page, etc. Maybe some of the odd data could be cleaned up if these links were placed next to the data they apply to? You can tell this has been a problem too: this box is blue, which seems like a lame attempt to help people find it.


UNLABELED: Privacy Info, Shipping Cost Info, Returns & Exchanges Info

And you thought the rant was coming to a quiet close. THE SHIPPING COSTS, RETURN AND EXCHANGE INFO, AND PRIVACY POLICIES ARE  BURIED UNDER 45 LBS OF USELESS CRAP. Okay, I'm calming down. Thanks for your patience.


Your Recent History

I actually really like this feature: I'm often wanting to return to an item that I was looking at a few days ago but didn't purchase. Too bad actually finding it is like exploring a polar continent.

Bottom of Page

Some genuinely useful stuff down here, including Amazon's other website holdings.  Check out Amazon Warehouse sometime: most people don't know it exists, but it sometimes has some great electronics prices.


Wouldn't be great if I had a clincher point?  But I'm simply too tired from scrolling. Okay, here it is:

Amazon:  focus some of those Billions of dollars and design energy on fixing your product pages.  It's time for a whole new paradigm.