Yesterday I complained about the crazy page design below the fold on att.com. I happened to be on Amazon last night and while I know this is not the new design that I’ve seen on my tablet I felt compelled to pull something together. How is it that Amazon.com can put a page like this out there and have at least as many options to explore and likely even more clickable links or buttons than AT&T? I don’t have a degree in interaction design, but I’ve been working on the web for a long time and I can tell you what works for me and what doesn’t.
The answer is simply the organization of the content. When you look at the image above you can see a section headline like “Related to Items You’ve Viewed”. The items related to that section are indented slightly. So I can easily pick out the section headline and logically group the content in that section since they are indented. The five items displayed are lined up the same way in each section so I can know where to start and stop. Since the columns keep the content lined up vertically it is easy for my eye to move through the options.
You might point out that column on the far right with a bunch of smaller images arranged vertically. This is kind of like the ad space used in a newspaper. The section is more general in nature and not necessarily specific to my purchase or viewing patterns other than perhaps by category. This area is largely overlooked unless I’m in the mood to browse. But it is still easy to move through these options in an organized manner because the columns keep things aligned vertically. The image sizes and text treatment help to keep the important stuff highlighted.
Like I said, I’m not a designer but I’ve had the pleasure of working with some very talented designers in my day. I’m sure this layout could be debated at length and I’m not endorsing this design aesthetic but rather offering a comparison to the previous post that was much more difficult to use.
I know AT&T is not the only one guilty of this but I just happend to come across this earlier today. This page is so full of ‘important’ information that all of it sits below the fold. This feels like an attempt to appease different groups that want their content to appear somewhere on the site only to get stuck with everything else around it. This is a good example of how decision theory can be considered and particularly the ideas around the paradox of choice can cause some problems. To be honest I didn’t read anything in here to know if it is worth clicking on or even related to the section of the site.
Less is more.
I’m moving my blog posts from my Posterous site back to WordPress. I still think WordPress has too much stuff that I don’t want or need, but they made it too easy to come back. The reasons for moving back are simple, Posterous was purchased by Twitter. That left me with two things to consider. The bigger issue is the support for the product moving forward will likely diminish as Twitter devises their plans for the platform. The other thing that is less of an issue, but more of an annoyance, is that Twitter would have too much of my stuff.
I suppose this is more of a preference than a fundamental problem but I prefer not to invest too heavily in one entity. This has led to some convoluted workflows in the past, but I prefer that to the other. I tried going full force with Yahoo! back in the day. I setup accounts for just about every product they had. Anyone remember Briefcase? The main problem with this approach is that I felt limited. I had a harder time when it came to using the right tool for the job. After being limited by lacking product features I looked for tools that could do the job better. Since then, I’ve become less product loyal. I mean, who wants to be loyal to a company or product that has an attitude of, “It’s good enough for most users.”
The result is that I have accounts for products and services all over the place. So many I can’t keep track of them anymore. But I don’t like a company too up in my business.