Amazon. The bookstore turned online store extraordinaire. A service I trust and always turn to for researching products (price checking included.) Perhaps it’s Amazon’s online presence that is its shortcoming as a store. I can walk in to a physical store, and when you do that enough regularly, good employees tend to take notice. They build loose relationships. Amazon doesn’t. But, maybe Amazon’s online presence isn’t its issue. Facebook and Google know me almost a little too well.
So how is it that Amazon can serve me one of the most irrelevant home pages I see on the internet? I do flag recommendations as interesting and not interesting when I can. But there’s a key phrase there: “when I can.” Amazon lets you respond to product recommendations, but not any of the other content you’re bombarded with on the home page.
Let’s take a look at the home page Amazon displayed to me not even an hour ago. My intent for this latest visit? To get the tracking number for my order that just shipped (The Tale of The Princess Kaguya for those wondering.)
You’ll notice I’ve boxed areas of the page in three colors: Red, Gold, and Green. Those correspond to bad content, mixed, and good, respectively. So, let’s start from the top. Amazon displays an image rotator of products and services. Historically, this area has been hit or miss. The first four slides were for the Kindle and Fire TV product lineup. The last slide is the one that actually caught my eye – right as I was about to scroll the page out of view of the rotator. As noted in the margin, I never knew about Amazon Services before. Given the broad name (Amazon has far more services than products, ebooks, TV, music, etc.), I was expecting a catalog of services Amazon offers. Instead, Amazon Services is a tool for sellers. Good to know.
Let’s continue down and to the left. “Related to Items You’ve Viewed” is highly relevant, even though many of the items displayed I already have on my wish list or own the DVD version of. So why have I not pruned this section? Eventually, I do plan to replace all of my Studio Ghibli DVDs with Blu-ray editions. Not pruning this section lets me see which Glibli movies are now on Blu-ray.
Under that, the bad content begins. As I’ve noted, Amazon, you know my gender. Before I started writing this, I thought you knew my shopping habits too. But, by recommending me women’s clothing when I am male and have never shopped for women’s clothing on you before, clearly those were two factors you ignored.
Now let’s look at the right sidebar. Tax season is coming up and I still need to do mine. Turbotax is a good reminder of that. Below that, we have crap for Xbox One. Amazon, you know which consoles I have. I bought my most recent from you. Never have then been a Microsoft one.
Now to scroll down for this first time. This is the part of the page that blows me away. Look at all the green on there. The only red is the bit of Xbox One rankings that was still present. “More Items to Consider” is very much what I’m interested in. Here, Amazon nailed it: Anime. My shopping habits on Amazon are highly reflective of that interest. Amazon finally analyzes that… after I’m past the initial content shown. If I were on Amazon to just quickly check recommendations, I’d be gone already, and Amazon would’ve missed a sale opportunity.
“New For You” is often another mixed bag. With regards to topics I’m interested in, it’s usually on the right track. Today, it’s a 50-50 split. Final Fantasy? Sure, I’ll look at that. That anime in there? I’ll look at that too. The Hobbit? Well, I’ll actually rent that from the library, but good try. The rest of it? Discard.
While I’ve marked the two banners below that relevant, in reality, I don’t have a Kindle. My local libraries (all ten of them within two miles of me) are also free. The system is called The Free Library of Philadelphia after all. That said, I probably wouldn’t be interested in Kindle Unlimited at this time. The PlayStation gift cards though? Hmm. I bought some of those last month. Good pick, Amazon.
“Inspired by Your Wish List” could be better, given that everything displayed is a) by the same company and b) serves the same general purpose. But, it gets my interests right. PS4 rankings in the sidebar? Also relevant. Comic Art? Maybe. I’d hope it’s another miscategorization for anime and manga art.
So let’s scroll down again. And usually, keep scrolling. “For a Night In” looks like it was just randomly thrown in there. Minus Rose Water, none of the content in it I care about. Amazon Visa card? Nope, especially given how often my parents’ gets hacked. Amazon gift cards and beauty stuffs? No need for either.
As for books, I think it’s obvious where my textbooks come from. That said, All of my book recommendations appear to be based on that. I don’t think I’d consider any of them, but they do reflect my shopping habits.
Finally, we reach the bottom of the page. I know books is marked red in this one and gold in the last. Ignore that. It’s red for no interest in the recommendations, but as mentioned above, it is reflective of my shopping with Amazon. So, with that, we have “Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations.” I’ll be blunt, Amazon. What idiot on your design team thought it was a good idea to have this as the last thing on the page? Fire them. Yes, I mean that. This absolutely should be much higher on the page. If not at the top, it should be the first thing I see on my first scroll down. Those are absolutely recommendations I care about – maybe not all of them – but the vast majority are exactly what I’m interested in. There is no valid reason I can think of that would explain why this would be at the bottom of the page rather than the top.
In short, my Amazon home page is a mess. While there is content I care about, it’s not where it should be. Instead, it’s either thrown in between content I don’t have the slightest interest in or content that is a mixed bag where some page loads are better than others. Perhaps that explains Amazon’s most recent round of A/B testing. Unfortunately, A (the current design), seems to be served much more often than the much better B design test.