Jared Spool

Principal, User Interface Engineering

Revealing Design Treasures from The Amazon
111 minutes, 51mb, recorded 2010-09-14

Careful study of Amazon.com reveals design treasures of surprising value. Jared Spool has studied Amazon for years and developed insights into which design elements create more sales, and why. But he cautions designers not to copy Amazon blindly. Some features only work for the dominant on-line retailer. Some don't even work for Amazon, whose site is peppered with "dead soldiers," the remnants of abandoned experiments. Along the way, Jared points out funny effects of Amazon's automation at scale, like long, literary customer reviews of a gallon of whole milk.

Amazon.com has a long history of constant evolution, its designers finding the best way to sell products and receive customer feedback. Jared describes features that increased sales and consumer satisfaction, including product pages with many ways to buy, personalized recommendations, customer reviews, and even ratings on those reviews. He demonstrates how these features are wielded effectively by Amazon, but also why other companies might want to think twice before using them.

Jared explains how it is that Amazon really can sell each item at a loss and make it up in volume. Hint: Turn over your inventory before the supplier's invoice is due!

He sums up the treasures he discovered:

  • Engage your users by delivering great content.
  • Don't be afraid to try new ideas.
  • Reduce "tool time," the time visitors spend on logging in and otherwise dealing with the web site as a "tool." Instead, help visitors focus on "goal time," the time they spend moving toward the goal that brought them to the site. In the process, build visitors' confidence. Help them understand and trust the web site.
  • Never forget the business. Start with a great business model and ensure everyone working on the web site understands it.

Jared Spool is CEO and founding principal of User Interface Engineering. A software developer and programmer, he has more than fifteen years of experience conducting usability evaluations on a variety of products and is an expert in low-fidelity prototyping techniques.

Jared is on the faculty of the Tufts University Gordon Institute and teaches seminars on product usability. He is a member of SIGCHI, the Usability Professionals Association, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the IEEE. Jared is a regular tutorial speaker at the annual CHI and Society for Technical Communications conferences.


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Photo: Jesper Rønn-Jensen