UX Teardown of Amazon.com

This is an assignment for Viking Code School’s Web design class. I am spending quite a lot of time on this course because web design is challenging and scary for me and they’ve done a great job demystifying the subject. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re interested in web design.

  1. Who is the key user?
  2. Someone (probably in the United States) who needs to buy something online.

  3. What is that user’s number one critical goal when using the site?
  4. Purchase a specific item as quickly and easily as possible as well as being shown related items that may be helpful.

  5. What is likely to make that user’s experience particularly positive
  6. Amazon makes it very easy to find items to purchase, and they have a huge catalog: Almost anything you could want is available. They also make it very easy to go from “Ooooh” that’s cool to “It’s in the mail.” This is great for users because it means that the entire purchasing process is very streamlined. Amazon is also very good at presenting products based on other things viewed, this allows users to find things that they might have forgotten or not been able to locate otherwise. Finally, Amazon’s reviews are very good indicators of the quality of a product, which helps users find excellent items.

  7. What is the approximate information architecture of the site?
  8. AmazonInformationArchitecture

  9. What is the flow through that architecture for the user who is accomplishing the critical goal you identified above?
  10. AmazonUXFlow

  11. What style(s) of navigation is/are used? Do they answer the two key questions (Where am I and how did I get here? Where should I go next and how do I get there?)?
  12. Amazon has several navigation elements that are blended together to make a slightly busy, but very functional whole. There is a top of the page navigation bar displaying a search bar, how many items are currently in the user’s cart, Account Information, and a drop down menu titled simply “Shop by Department”. This drop down menu is amazing because it is huge and still manages to be very responsive. The secret behind how they manage this is tracking mouse movement direction. This navigation menu is extremely well designed and gives you access to Amazon’s many departments and sub-departments in a few clicks.

    Once you’ve entered a department a left side bar appears to allow you to filter items based on various criteria like price, brand, and size. This is a nice secondary navigation UI. It ties in well with the already established top nav bar and drop down.

  13. What key interactions does the user have? Are they clear and usable?
  14. The users key interactions can be categorized into either locating the item of interest and purchasing it. In the simplest case a user uses the search bar on the top of the page and is shown exactly to the item they want on the first page of results (typing “Fitbit Charge HR” for example). The first result is the Fitbit Charge and clicking on either the product picture or name will open the product page. This is a good example of low friction searching and selection.

    On the product page the eye is immediately drawn to a yellow button labeled “Add To Cart” which really stands out on the page. Clicking that adds the item to the cart and brings the user to the cart, starting the purchasing process.The user can then click the very prominent “Proceed to checkout” button and buy the item. If the person has used Amazon.com before all the billing and shipping info is filled in automatically and there are very few button clicks until the item is ordered. It’s really key that all the buttons that get the user closer to their goal really stand out (they’re yellow and large) and look the same.

  15. What did the site do well to allow the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
  16. There are several things, but generally the site does a very very good job of remembering previous information (billing info, etc) and eliminating any duplication of that effort. It also does a very very good job of finding the product the user is after. Even if the initial search fails, there are several tools like the big dropdown of departments and the left “restrict by criteria” menu that allow things to be found in most cases. The UI is also very consistent, anything in yellow is going to be very important to move forward, everything else is in more muted tones.

  17. What did the site do poorly when allowing the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
  18. Amazon.com is one of the most finely honed sites I’ve encountered on the internet. My only complaints have to do with how -well- it does the job of recommending products (I don’t like seeing ads for things later). That and the density of the navigation could be reduced possibly? The whole site is just very clean, clear, and does the job.

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