Friday, January 5th, 2007 Amazon’s Beta Experiment

Category: Showcase is a new site created by Amazon “in response to customers’ desires to shop a destination dedicated to shoes and handbags”.

They have created a very rich experience that is highly dynamic including:

  • Ajax pagination
  • Image zooming to get closer
  • Dynamically changing other choices as you mouse over an element (e.g. mouse over the size and the price and colors could change)
  • Instant feedback to let you know if you have to select more items to get work done

They didn’t go over the top, and instead kept the site very clean and simple.

What do you think?


Posted by Dion Almaer at 4:19 pm

3.7 rating from 40 votes


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The usability is superior to most sites sans Ajax. Getting down to product via filterable navigation the way it is developed is spot on. The issue that arises using this methodology if findability – search engine spiders are not going to be able to index the thousands of pages that could have otherwise been available if non-Ajax methods of filterable navigation were employed. Yes, submitting products via XML feed is an option…but that merely makes it available, not optimized.

Comment by Jason Billingsley — January 5, 2007

I can’t imagine Amazon didn’t think about that one. I am sure they put massive money towards google, etc. and I doubt that forgot about search engines. There are plenty of ways to get your data out there differently based on user agent strings. I think most sites like Amazon have extensive user agent based customizations.
BTW, the framework/WCM system I have been building,, uses server side JavaScript rendering engine (HTMLUnit) whenever a user agent string is received that is not a known JS capable browser. The page load JavaScript is executed and static HTML can be delivered to search engines. Greatly simplifies search engine indexability for RIAs/Ajax apps.

Comment by Ajax 2.0 Developer — January 5, 2007

Like the last sentence said “They didn’t go over the top, and instead kept the site very clean and simple.”

What good does it do when the user exp is ruined even if the technology is soooo great?

Comment by Simon Jia — January 5, 2007

I Love the filtering of product types.. nothing new of course, but well executed

The fade effect is Annoyingly Poorly timed, especially when clicking quickly on the category filters. I found my product results would often appear just before the fade, then it would fade out and back in. The fade has to go.

Comment by Forrest — January 5, 2007

Hey give them some time. I think it’s a great playground for new technologies. They obviously wanted a ‘cool’ shop since they’ve dropped the amazon interface which is the reference in usability for web-shops. My two cents: Give them a few month time for real-world analysis of the users tracks and endless will become the reference for ajax-web-shops.

Comment by Jan Prill — January 6, 2007

That’s awesome, I love it. It feels light and it’s easy to use. Also: nice use of the overview + detail pattern for zooming into pictures :)

They seem to still have a lot of opportunities for performance optimization. A quick look at what they’re sending to the client shows a long list of js files that have not been minimized in any way. Lots of comments and whitespace in there, and why haven’t some of these been merged into a single file?

Comment by Michael van Ouwerkerk — January 6, 2007

Unbiased observation first:
Men’s shoes page
99 requests
410KB data w/images
Initial: 41.963 seconds
(Firefox + Fasterfox @ 24 connections/server)
Cached: 1 second
A zillion small gifs + a zillion JS includes = too many HTTP requests.
Too many HTTP requests = slow initial load.
IE users with only 2-10 connections = screwed.
410KB takes one second to load over 5mbps cable, but span it out over 99 requests and it takes nearly 42 secs (although a faster PC might help with JS). They should most definitely combine some of their javascript includes, specifically, each individual widget (such as the price slider) is currently its own file. It’s not about data size, it’s about the latency of so many round-trips.
Other than the performance element, very nice site.

Comment by Bradley — January 6, 2007

Is this a custom built Ajax framework? If not what are they using?

Comment by CJ — January 6, 2007

Looks like Prototype 1.5rc0 under the hood.

Comment by Bradley — January 6, 2007

I like the design, and the AJAX is, on the whole well implemented; however, there are times when an “AJAX” feature is nothing more than an annoyance.

Example: go to Men’s shoes, select Bally, then view Bally branded shoes. To see all the shoes I have to scroll across with the carousel, with acres of real estate below it wasted. Would make more sense to use that space to display the shoes – no?

Besides that, I love this site.

Comment by ajaxianfading — January 6, 2007

Well designed, comfortable colors, and indeed nice filtering options.

I only wonder – from the perspective of the customer – if the zoom options are merely a technology pushed functionality. I personally liked how the zoom works, it just looks cool, but I’d rather liked to see the full image placed on top of the window with the rest of the site on the background with a opacity. The zooming functionality just takes to much time to view the product.

Comment by M. Schopman — January 7, 2007

The site is terribly slow especially the Javascript Scroller. The design is pain for everybody who has ever learnt any lesson about it.

What’s new about this thing? The JS Zoom? Nothing special….

One bad example that clearly shows: Web 2.0 is a way to the future, but not every try to walk that line is successful.

Comment by Nick — January 7, 2007

I especially like the horizontal scrolling when you click on a single shoe to inspect. It eliminates the need to have to go back and fourth between pages just because you want to see the next shoe or if you misclicked.

The site seems really responsive. The only gripe I might have are the mouseovers. I don’t think there are enough clues to suggest what will happen when you rollover any given element. I think most people, including myself, still click on things because that’s what we’ve been trained to do.

But overall I like Endless quite a bit. A lot of good ideas that can be “borrowed” to make life for visitors a little happier.

Comment by Brian — January 8, 2007

Looks and works great.

The left nav filter by and redraw is great, but my only question would be whether this was designed to meet a segment or a designers dream.

Either way, I like it alot.

Comment by Mike — January 9, 2007

very nicely done…. would love to see how it works with a screenreader though.

It appears they are using some kind of url-rewriting – and appending the revering page to it (check the botton nav links) – google will have a field day with all those duplocate content pages…. unless of course the site is cloacked.

Comment by stuart — January 15, 2007

I code that does the same thing: multi select AJAX calls. Check it out. If anybody wants the source code in ASP.NET, I can email it to them :)

Comment by David Pirek — November 9, 2007

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