TAG: Amazon

Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s Personalization Strategy

An oldie but goodie (from a 1998 interview)

“In the online world, businesses have the opportunity to develop very deep relationships with customers, both through accepting preferences of customers and then observing their purchase behavior over time, so that you can get that individualized knowledge of the customer and use that individualized knowledge of the customer to accelerate their discovery process.

If we can do that, then the customers are going to feel a deep loyalty to us, because we know them so well. And if they switch to a competitive website – as long as we never give them a reason to switch, as long as we’re not trying to charge higher prices or providing lousy service, or don’t have the selection that they require; as long as none of those things happen – they’re going to stick with us because they are going to be able to get a personalized service, a customized website that takes into account the years of relationship we’ve built with them.”

It is easy to see how Amazon’s business strategy is manifested in their design decisions…

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Interesting Social Feature: The Yelp Elite Squad

What’s the most interesting way you’re promoting your web site or application? Have you considered throwing a real-life party for it?

That’s what Yelp.com is doing. A San Francisco-based review site, Yelp has been throwing parties for users of the site they call the “Yelp Elite” in various cities across the country in order to build up buzz.


At first, these parties seem a bit silly (see the Yelp Blog for post-party details). Hosting a party around a site on which you read reviews? Doesn’t sound too exciting. It’s certainly not as compelling as the eBay Live! event, which is put on for people who use the auction site. Those people are definitely motivated to attend, eBay is how they make a living.

But looking more closely at Yelp’s parties we can see a tactical reason why they might be doing this: they need to as a result of the nature of their site.

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Open Letter to Derek Powazek

Dear Derek,

I’m writing to ask you if you would consider writing an update to your fantastic book Design for Community. Your book, as much as any other, helps to define what it means to create and curate community online. It’s a great book, but it’s a bit old and hard to find.

Design for Community

Web designers the world over, including myself, could really benefit from a 2nd edition. The world we’re designing for is all about community now, the social interactions of people in and around the things they’re passionate about. No longer are we a single person using a web site by ourselves. Now it’s all about multiple people participating, cooperating, and working together in countless ways. Community is a big part of that.

The copy of your book I had been using was at UIE, and since I’m not there everyday any more I don’t have easy access to it.

I tried to get myself a fresh copy of it the other day, and I couldn’t. On the publisher’s site (Peachpit Press) your book is simply not for sale. On Amazon it is unavailable new. Apparently, one of the best books on web design isn’t in print anymore!

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On Increasingly Sophisticated Social Interfaces

In many circles you hear the call of software designers saying “Less is more”. In theory this is a good rallying call, getting designers to really think about each and every feature they add. But in practice it isn’t necessarily true that taking features out of a product, or not adding features to a product, makes it any better. Sometimes, more is more.

This is especially true in social interfaces that model complex social interactions. In some cases there is just no way around it: human relationships are complex and so whatever view we offer into them must have some complexity as well. That doesn’t mean they should be hard-to-use, it just means that they communicate sophisticated information.

Take the reviews on Amazon.com. For years Amazon’s interface showed the average review, so viewers could tell the general mood surrounding a book. If it was a 5 star or a 1 star book, then that would be instantly recognizable.

But over time it became clear that the rating system had a fault: if the average rating was somewhere in the middle, say 3.5 stars, it was unclear whether it was just a dull book that most people rated as mediocre or if it was a polarizing book that half the people rated 5 and half the people rated 1. A political book, for example, usually polarizes.

So the review interface could be made more sophisticated, showing more information about how the reviews for a particular book were distributed. Amazon came up with a nice interface for this…

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How does Strategy affect Design?

Luke Wroblewski shares a discussion on the ambiguous role of the designer:

Client: “Performance metrics, market landscape, product strategy? You don’t sound much like a designer. Shouldn’t we be discussing color options and page templates?”

Designer: “Design is the physical, or in this case digital, manifestation of your product strategy. Of course we could define your customers’ experience with ‘paint by number’. But I think you’d agree we should figure out what you want to say to your customers and why before we dive into how we’re going to say it.”

There are two ways to view Design here.

If you view it as creating interfaces to content, then you might stop short of talking about strategy. Instead, you would focus on how to display what you’ve got. Typography, grids, information hierarchy, big buttons, huge fonts, navigation bars, etc.

The other view that Luke alludes to is one that I believe we are moving toward, necessarily: having the designers in the strategy discussion alongside the “business strategy” people talking about the “what” as well as the “how”. (btw: this is the “strategy” part of the Bokardo Design: Interface design & strategy for social web applications). I would be doing both myself and my clients a disservice if I ignored how their business strategy can drive the design. A designer has done their job well when they have created an honest implementation of that business strategy.

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How Social is Amazon?

What an Amazon product page looks like from 50,000 feet.

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How to Prevent Valueless Design in Social Web Sites

How an over-focus on technology and visual design can hide the real value of social software.

In a fascinating piece on the amazing growth of the photo-sharing site Fotolog, Jason Kottke clearly articulates a growing problem in design:

Fotolog…relative to Flickr…has changed little in the past couple of years. Fotolog has groups and message boards, but they’re not done as well as Flickr’s and there’s no tags, no APIs, no JavaScript widgets, no “embed this photo on your blog/MySpace”, and no helpful Ajax design elements, all supposedly required elements for a successful site in the Web 2.0 era. Even now, Fotolog’s feature set and design remains planted firmly in Web 1.0 territory.”

How do sites with sub-optimal visual design and technology grow so big and become so successful?

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Tip for Amazon Designers: Lots of Folks Don’t Know How to Exclude Gifts from Recommendations

Amazon should make the ability to remove purchased items from recommendations much more apparent. Rashmi Sinha gave a great talk on Recommendation Systems at the UIE Web App Summit yesterday. I was like a kid in a candy store…it’s one of my favorite topics and Rashmi is a true expert on the topic. At one […]

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Tagging Talk

For those interested in tagging, I’m giving a live virtual seminar (webcast) next Thursday (July 27): Users as Information Architects: Is Tagging Right for your Site? This is the second seminar we’ve given at UIE, and we’re really excited by the response and feedback generated by the first.

I’m focusing this talk on the idea that tagging might help designers organize huge amounts of information by letting their users do it for them. Heresy! You say. Well, in some places it might turn out that tagging beats IA hands down. In others, a traditional IA still works best.

However, if you’ve read The Del.icio.us Lesson, you know that it isn’t as simple as it seems at first glance. So I’ll be talking about the ins and outs of tagging, where it seems to work well, and where it doesn’t work.

Interestingly, both Amazon and Google seem to have tagging wrong…

Find the Edge of Attention

Is attention worth tracking?

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