I'm in the process of designing a theme for my company's online store that will (obviously) hopefully boost our conversion rate as much as possible.

It seems only logical when planning the theme to look at real-world examples that are successful, so I've been taking a look at Amazon's layout and... I'm suprised.

I've attached a screenshot with some minor annotations below. Take a look then read on.Amazon

I could have gone on for much longer with the white text but I've just drawn your attention to a few problems I can see with the design. I've highlighted in red the parts of the design that, to me, a prospective buyer of this book is interested in.

Am I wrong in my asumptions? Is this a poor design? Given the shear size of Amazon I must assume that it's like this for a reason and been tested and improved over a number of years. Some features they have I consider extremely good for UX - for example, 'people who bought this also bought...' is a great feature. Moreso than related products being churned out that are purely based on likeness of titles, tags and descriptions of products.

The elements that I've highlighted in red are the key features of the theme I'm creating and are exaggerated (tastefully!) to help users find them.. and to help them convert. ;-)

Incase it wasn't clear what my actual question was from that:

Is Amazon's layout poor from your professional UX opinion? (And are my points correct (at least to some extent)) Or is there something great about it?

  • I should add that I've found what I'd consider to be fairly flawed designs on a number of mainstream sites from a UX/conversion optimzation point of view since looking at this - eBay?
    – Anonymous
    Dec 22, 2011 at 14:04
  • Amazon hasn't changed that much for years, has it? I heard rumblings of a new, tablet oriented layout for the Kindle Fire, but visiting their "full" site on the fire is a massive pain. It's a shame, their store design is great on the Fire's shopping apps, despite the fire's other problems.
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 22, 2011 at 14:12
  • 2
    @Jared Spool are you out there? (This is kind of one of his things. I heard him give his talk on Amazon's intensive A/B testing a year or two ago.) Dec 22, 2011 at 14:26
  • 1
    @peteorpeter I tweeted him: jmspool is his personal twitter
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 22, 2011 at 14:36
  • 1
    I for one hate hate hate amazon's layout. I still shop there, but only if i know exactly what i want. Overall i find it very displeasing. Amazon is one of those special websites. I wouldn't follow their layout.
    – Matt
    Dec 27, 2011 at 10:46

4 Answers 4


Steve Yegge's rant about Amazon —Software Developer and Senior Manager at Amazon from 1998 to 2005— is quite entertaining, and there's an interesting quote:

Jeff Bezos is an infamous micro-manager. He micro-manages every single pixel of Amazon's retail site. He hired Larry Tesler, Apple's Chief Scientist and probably the very most famous and respected human-computer interaction expert in the entire world, and then ignored every goddamn thing Larry said for three years until Larry finally -- wisely -- left the company. Larry would do these big usability studies and demonstrate beyond any shred of doubt that nobody can understand that frigging website, but Bezos just couldn't let go of those pixels, all those millions of semantics-packed pixels on the landing page. They were like millions of his own precious children. So they're all still there, and Larry is not.

More than my personal/professional opinion on the matter, this sheds some light on why the general opinion among professionals seems to be that Amazon has a bad UI design: Amazon's final UX decisions are made by a non-UX designer.

UPDATE: Some insight from Jared Spool in Quora on the subject.

  • 3
    This doesn't add any research or insight, just an excerpt of someone rant. Dec 22, 2011 at 16:58
  • 2
    The rant comes from a long-time employee, a knowledgeable source if I may, which can be accepted as a good argument or not. And it does have insight: Bezos ruled over Tesler on the HCI decisions. Besides, the question rather calls to opinionated questions (even though it is not the intention of SE's sites), and research on Amazon's conversion rates aren't probably much at hand. Dec 22, 2011 at 17:12
  • The final point "Amazon's final UX decisions are made by a non-UX designer" is crucial. It may be pulling in a lot of money, but that does not mean that the UX is good or right. It probably means that they are cheaper than anywhere else, and have driven most independents out of business. Just because a site makes money does not mean that it is good UX. Dec 23, 2011 at 10:44

My view is that the Amazon layout is not very good. I think your points are spot on - it is cluttered and unclear. However, when I load the page up, I see three things: the book cover, the price and the Add To Basket button. So if I know I want this book, it draws me into buying it.

So if I am looking for a specific book/product, I think it does exactly what it needs to. If I need to search and compare products, then it is not so good. Why does it win out? Because people search for what they want, do their comparisons, and then when they know what they want, Amazon is the cheapest.

So it probably depends on what you are after, or what your USP is. If you expect people to compare, then you need to do something far better than Amazon. If you are competing on price, then follow the Amazon approach, and highlight the important stuff. It is all about the expected usage of the site.


Amazon is a site that has plenty of resources for A/B testing and MVT. So my guess is that the conversion rate has been tested. However, they might get better results from a better designers. But who knows? All speculations really since we don't have the data...


This redux article by Andy Rutledge on Amazon might help you out somewhat.


Whilst I don't agree with all of his points, although it's 5 years old it's a great read and a lot of it still holds true.

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