How come Ebay, Amazon etc have horrible websites?

(nn nn) #1

Hi Guys,

Anyone knows why most of big and successful websites are horrible looking and hard to navigate? They have access to the greatest human talents on our planet + AI technology.


(Mike M. Lin) #2

I don’t know, but here are some guesses.

  1. They are not horrible. It depends on how you define horrible. In the excellent usability book Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug uses Amazon as an example of great UX.
  2. They are old. The biggest and most successful website are also among the oldest, so they have UIs built a long time ago. If an older UI means a horrible website, then bigger and more successful websites will be more horrible.
  3. Slick websites aren’t that important for driving business. Maybe these companies don’t prioritize having a modern website very high because it’s just not that important when it comes to running a successful business.
  4. We’ve known these companies too long. Maybe nothing is wrong with their websites at all, but because we’ve seen these sites for so long, we’ve just grown tired of them and think they’re horrible.

Anyone have some more to add to the list?

(nn nn) #3

Hi Mike,

I just used word “horrible” to get some attention to the subject :slight_smile:
No, of course they are not horrible! There are websites that are a lot harder to navigate ( e.g )

Steve Krug uses Amazon as an example of great UX

Not sure Why Steve Krug used Amazon as a great UI example, maybe amazon sponsored his book? a) Amazon has 1000 different font styles and sizes on their website b) there are 1000 different colors to represent the same thing - link for example c) navigation is in chaos. sporadically thrown anywhere where there is room d) all kinds of unrelated products and ads scream at visitor thus distracting from a main purpose of a visit.

They are old.

They do not have money to redesign their websites? :slight_smile:


(neil clemmons) #4

Define ‘horrible’! Amazon has one of the largest commerce experiences and conversion that is the envy of many in the industry!

Big commerce sites have a significant amount of money on the line with any changes. So they are pretty careful NOT to make many changes without substantiation. When you consider the millions of habituated users, they don’t want to take the risk of revenue / conversion impact without substantial upside. I’ve done work with many large commerce players and most don’t have the courage to push too much new given the risks of business impact.

As a result, many of the long-standing commerce sites tend to ‘stick with what works’ rather than make a significant number of changes.

Beyond the two you mentioned, which I frankly find to be pretty usable, I’m frankly amazed at the poor usability of LinkedIN - which has very little revenue tied to it but is painful to navigate and get anything done. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft drives more change in the UI/UX now that they own them.

(Barry W. Enderwick) #5

I feel a bit qualified to speak here as I oversaw the design of non-member website at Netflix from 2001 - 2012. That site was “horrible” according to designers who held aesthetic above usability and business. But the fact was that it did an excellent job (via copious hours of considered consumer research coupled with relentless A/B testing) of converting those that landed on the page.

Yes, sites can be good looking and excel at the business at hand, but first and foremost they need to work. To Mike M. Lin’s observation too, consumers can suffer brand fatigue (though not nearly as quickly as internal teams) so that perception can play into it.

(Nadav Gur) #6

I have some visibility into some of the big travel players who are in a similar category - older, over-encumbered pages originally built to maximize SEO and ad units, look like a mess - and still virtual monopolies.

There are a couple of factors working there: huge businesses that WORK where “you can’t fix it if it ain’t broken” applies - a re-design is risky and if it unbalances the company (e.g. Better conversion for commerce but lower ad revenues) there are political forces pushing for maintaining the status quo. Second - with a virtual monopoly, great usability (vs. OK) does not move the needle on the business side - customers don’t abandon for a better experience. In fact sometimes usability is sacrificed for more lucrative factors like paid clicks, ad units etc.

(James Futhey) #7

Comment from a designer (What I’ve come to believe over the years):

I think most people would agree that companies become more risk-averse over time.

The larger a user base, the more impactful design revisions become.

For every design, a portion of the users who churn do so because they fail to master the interface. Hopefully, this is a very small group.

Each time you change the way something functions, a portion of your users will ultimately fail to re-learn interfaces they have mastered in the past, and stop using the product.

Simultaneously, interfaces become more complex. The total cost of a redesign expands greatly, especially since the total knowledge of how an interface works is now distributed among a larger group of specialist designers (instead of generalists who may have designed the whole thing themselves, and understand how the pieces fit together).

From my experience, most designers want to work for large, established companies with a track record of good design, and a set of established design patterns they can leverage to ship well thought-out features. When there are well-established patterns and interface libraries, designers who are more risk-averse can spend more time on user testing and revisions to their design, to ultimately ship a higher-quality feature in the time allotted.

Also, if the company has it’s priorities in order, usability and measurable performance metrics become more important than aesthetics. Designers are typically rewarded for improving conversion rates and making their products more successful in ways that can easily be measured. In some cases (such as the attempted facebook redesign a couple years back), modernizing the app can even work against business goals.

If the company is successful, it is also taking a greater share of the market, and it’s “negotiating power” vs. the user has increased. When the company was small and had many competitors, the user could easily choose another platform if she mildly disliked the outdated interface. However, today there are few users who can reasonably say they would rather use a competitor to Amazon, simply because their interface is a few years outdated. Users will tolerate more pain because the company is either better at communicating product value, or the product value is much greater than competitors.

And just in terms of marketing, the group of stakeholders who need to be satisfied by a redesign grows over time. Small startups do not have SEO teams, or large marketing teams. Part of the cost of a redesign is sometimes a temporary “SEO reset”, which may be a terrible business decision.

So, I believe there are many small factors which accumulate over time to make companies more conservative with changes to how the product looks, feels, and works.

(Vinish Garg) #8

@futhey nailed it so well. I am a content strategist and I know how a buy-in is so difficult when things are in place. I would take the example of a sports team who are on a winning streak. Assume that they are missing a key player and still they are winning all league matches. Suddenly the key player is fit again at the knockout stage but the team (often) does not pick that key player because they do not want to disturb the winning combination.

It can be argued that many organizations go through rebranding and it can be a good opportunity. To understand rebranding as an opportunity, they need education and bandwidth and they often lack in both the fronts. And they are happy to let the opportunity go because they do not want to disturb the winning combination. :slight_smile:

(Pierre Chapuis) #9

Amazon is definitely not “horrible”. Amazon is a very complex website that does an awful lot of things, and yet most people manage to navigate through it and buy what they want efficiently. People who use the service tend to recommend it to their family and prefer buying on Amazon to anywhere else.

Everything on Amazon has been user tested and is continuously measured for efficiency. If you define “better” by “makes their metrics better” and think you can design their website “better”, you are probably wrong.

When you think about it, the way most people reach Amazon is with a Google Search on a product name. They land directly on the right product page and just have to click the big yellow-ish button to buy.

If they are unsure about the product, they can see from top to bottom:

  • a description of what it does;
  • alternative products they may want to buy itself;
  • comments and reviews from other buyers.

This sums up the goals of a product page pretty well: make it easy to buy for those who know they want to, and let people who don’t make their mind or choose another product (still at Amazon).

This looks pretty well designed to me.

(Then of course the rest of the service, from goods availability to customer support to shipping, is very good as well, and all that together help understand why it is so dominant in e-commerce today.)

(nn nn) #10

I, like most people, come to to purchase a specific item - cups for example. 99,99% of amazon’s home page screams at me with: women’s dresses, video store , START FREE TRIAL. etc. So to purchase cups I need to pay for membership?

Next page, tried to refine by material (porcelain), received a different looking confusing page with lots and lots of links all over the places: wedding registry, dining and entertainment, cutlery and so forth. I am lost already, I just need to buy simple cups

Finally found the cups I wanted…now, on the top of already million of other suggestions, I see these - Frequently Bought Together, Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought , Sponsored Products Related To This Item, Other Sellers on Amazon. This is not upselling, this is blunt spamming. One upsell is not enough, let’s make it 100 more to get the sucker for sure!

Ok, now I need to add to cart. There are 7 ADD TO CART BUTTONS on the right side and down below

Everything on Amazon has been user tested and is continuously measured for efficiency

I called amazon’s customer service several times, their employees do not know where a lot of things are located on their website. So people who receive training on how to use website have problems navigating it.

(nn nn) #11

yahoo’s failure is a great recent example of “why fix if it aint broken” attitude

(nn nn) #12

Horrible as in Walmart, that is also the envy of many in the industry

(Rich Akhmerov) #13

You’re nit-picking at specific elements on the page instead of thinking about ACTUAL user flow, then you wonder why amazon’s website is designed ‘horribly’. Quick example: if you go on with the intention of purchasing cups, you’re not going to look at the homepage, you’re going to look at the first quarter of the screen where the search bar is, click in, then type in ‘cups’ or ‘porcelain cups’. Your eyes are directed towards one specific element only, not to peripheral vision.

(nn nn) #14

Hi Richard,

You’re nit-picking at specific elements on the page instead of thinking about ACTUAL user flow

ok I give up, I am obviously wrong :frowning:

(emy) #15

Horrible! why use it here for Ecommerce website , Amazon are Largest website for Online Shopping , That are Very popular in Industry !

vital Ecommerce websiute are significant amount of money on the any Change .
Today Many online Website Similar to ebay, Amazon or Esty.

(Andrew Chen) #16

(Ya'ara Cohen) #19

I think that what we call good design/UX today, is simple and clear design/UX. As these sites are huge, complex, have multiple user types and use cases - they couldn’t possibly be simple, so the current concept of ‘good’ design (modern, minimalist, lean-startup style) just doesn’t fit.

Also, I think the value proposition of these sites is that they offer everything for everyone, and while in many verticals, consumers prefer a clear, easy user experience that gives them quality over quantity - these sites appeal to the “quantity over quality” verticals and audiences, therefore making simple design irrelevant. The mess is part of the promise - you don’t want all those options stripped away, you want ALL the choices.

(mark alan van akkeren) #20

Nah, I’m with you in this critique. Concise and to the point is how I’m accustomed to interacting with the an e-commerce site, i’m guessing this is your M.O. too? I’d be curious to see “lingering data” for Amazon (how long someone just sits on the site and clicks on a bunch of the randomness that’s thrown at them). To put it another way, how many go onto the store to only buy a gallon of milk but walk out with bread, eggs, produce and other items, a byproduct of all that “stuff” floating all over the page.

(Dane Madsen) #21

This is a similar frustration I have (product suggestion - I have been a Prime member for years). How possibly did people look at or buy certain items together? It is nearly humorous - I recently bought a gym beanie and now am seeing welding sleeves as suggested purchases. Apparently the seller had listed “welding” in the beanie key words (it is a stretch, but i sort of get it) yet now I am being followed by enough welding supply suggestions i feel a need to start a machine shop.

The upshot is that much of the frustration you are seeing is seller generated because you simply cannot have company editors for all the product/keyword combinations.

(perr) #22

Most of the e-commerce websites do not get the scope to maintain their website and as a result we get a slow site. For more information go to