TAOI: The “Agony” of Browsing Amazon

The architecture of information:

As I’ve noted before, as software eats more of the world we’re likely to see more stories about how poor information architecture is hurting businesses. Along these lines, a recent opinion piece in Bloomberg claims browsing for products in Amazon is “agonizing”:

Try clicking through Amazon’s beauty products section to the pages for foundation, one of the (ahem) foundations of any makeup line. It’s a notoriously tricky item to buy online or in stores because people must match the shade to their skin tone. I found hunting for foundation on Amazon comically impossible.

There are 200 pages of products grouped seemingly with little reason. It’s not possible to narrow the product listings by liquid or powder foundation — equivalent to not giving people the choice between boxers or briefs.

Today is the second of two “Amazon Prime Days,” when the retailer presents many products at a deep discount. I’m in search of a new pair of sunglasses, so I’ve perused the site’s offers a couple of times since yesterday. The findings in the Bloomberg piece correspond with my experience: Amazon is relatively easy to use if you know what you’re looking for, less so if you’re browsing.

As the piece notes, it’s hard to state precisely how much (if any) this is hurting Amazon’s business. Speaking from my own experience, I find myself using other information environments as my first resort for browsing for products more often than not. (It’s not just bad IA; lately I also find Amazon’s UI slow to load and clumsy to operate.)

Amazon Shopping Is Easy. Browsing Is Agonizing.