Is Amazon Overloaded?

Take a look at this fairly randomly chosen page on Amazon (picture crop above). It contains the following:

  • 3262 words
  • Over 220 links (not including links that appear on pop-out submenus which add over 60 more). This is as many links as Yahoo had on its homepage at is peak of link quantity a couple of years ago.
  • There are zones for navigation, purchasing (with multiple sub-zones), reviews, user-generated content, a wiki, a discussion forum, automatically generated recommendations, recent history of Amazon searches, advertising, special offers.
  • There are also 8 search boxes and 6 drop-down menus, 4 master navigation tabs, and 12 buttons related to adding things to the cart or a wish list.

There isn’t a whole lot of obvious order to how these are presented, and no strong grid to help organize content.

What’s funny is that it mostly works, despite having what would generally be considered an overload of content and distractions. The amount of stuff enourages a non-linear approach to reading the page, as your eyes zig-zag around as they catch onto baubels and buttons.

In some ways an Amazon page is very much like wandering around inside a Target store.

You’re not expected to take everything in in one go, but are offered enough enticements to keep you coming back for repeat visits, each time aquiring a deeper understanding of the shopping landscape. You trundle your shopping cart around and some things will catch your eye, adjacent choices will be offered, and so on.

The other thing it has in common with Target is that every product is treated the same, whether it costs $1 or $1000 (the price range on Amazon is different than Target…). Every product gets the same set of features, recommendations, search options, tagging, etc. (With exceptions made for items like books, which have special features like SIPs that aren’t relevant elsewhere).

But it does raise the question of how much more can be loaded onto an Amazon page. Or perhaps they will start taking things away? The product wikis don’t seem to get used much, and discussion forums and user-uploaded photos only show up occasionally and then mostly for high-emotional-involvement or hot categories. Even a pretty hot product that’s been on the market for a while, like the Razr, only has 2 discussion threads and no wiki entries. Given the lifecyle of many products, they will be off the market before having time to build up wiki/discussion momentum.

I suspect that we will soon see Amazon either start to trim back, or do a wholesale redesign to bring some order to the (almost) chaos. They haven’t had a full redesign in quite a few years and have been adding “Web 2.0” snazziness incrementally, it feels overdue.