Amazon's Complex Design Sells More

The prevailing trends in web design say go minimal or go home, so why then is Amazon’s front page cluster bomb of choices? It sells more, writes Alex Moskalyuk.

Simple design in Amazon’s case generated higher cart abandonment and statistically significant decreases in customer conversions.

That’s based on slide 18-19 of “Front Line Internet Analytics at Amazon.com,” [PDF] a talk Ronny Kohavi and Matt Round gave at at EMetrics in 2004.

It’s an interesting read as you watch Amazon tweak and optimize… remember the tab mountain? — BEN POPKEN

Amazon: screw the simplicity, stick to what sells [Alex Moskalyuk]

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  1. Falconfire says:

    I honestly cant believe that. Something else must be playing into it because I cant see why people would abandon carts simply because its easier to figure out where the hell to go.

  2. Tallanvor says:

    I can see this to some extent. With a place like Amazon, to the average shopper, a simple site might make it look like they don’t really have that much stuff available.

    At the same time, Amazon has to have a balance between the complexity that shows just how much stuff is available from the site, and making the site easy to use. Hence the constant experimentation to find the perfect mix.

  3. ElizabethD says:

    Amazon is pretty fabulous overall. My one quibble is that if you want to return a book, you have to go to your account on their web site and fill out a form to print the return invoice and label. Why not enclose it with the shipment, as most online vendors do?

    I know; it’s probably all about multiple shipping points, inventory, etc., but I still hate being made to take those extra steps; it’s an inconvenience for the customer, even if not a Herculean one.

  4. juri squared says:

    I can see that. Many times I’ll load up the main page only to see something I want, but previously had no intention of buying. I’m a sucker, but there are lots of people like me out there!

  5. TedSez says:

    They’re missing something major here:

    Between those two designs, the “simpler” one is actually harder to read. The column is too wide, so your eye has to go all the way across the page to read the product description. And the “complicated” design includes a large illustration and headline that instantly lets you know what the page is about. So it isn’t the complexity, but the design itself, that makes the difference.

  6. klinux says:

    The presentation (in PDF format) is created in April 2004. Therefore, the data used is likely from the period of early 2004 or late 2003. We are talking about 3+ years old data! Web consumer mindset may have changed since then.

    Me = analytics professional

  7. Panhandler says:

    IF this is true, PC Magazine must be making a mint off their atrocious layout.

  8. infinitysnake says:

    TedSez, I’m just the same way- more than half my Amazon purchases are things I didn’t know IU couldn’t live without until they told me so…

  9. theseum says:

    There’s no reason that simple design should lead to better sales — an attractive design is useful for attracting new users but everybody already uses Amazon anyway so their only concern is getting as many sales / session as possible. If user-friendly design was good for sales then stores in the real world wouldn’t be designed the way they are, and decades of research and experience have gone into that.

  10. John says:

    Too bad I had to stop using Amazon – they continue to sell cockfighting magazines and dogfighting videos/training manuals. I loved their service, too.