Myth #20: If it works for Amazon, it will work for you
Although Amazon has features that are both excellent and well-proven, they won’t necessarily work on any e-commerce website. Let’s take their customer reviews for example. Target.com bought Amazon’s customer review software. Jared Spool demonstrates that, despite using the same exact software and interface, Target.com doesn’t receive any reviews at all: in the first month after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, Amazon got 1 805 reviews, whereas Target received only 3 (both retailers sold about 2 million copies).
It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t copy the design of others - by all means do. But make sure you also understand why it worked for them and how it will work for your company and your users.
Why copying Amazon can be dangerous?
- Jared Spool discusses the aforementioned Target customer review fiasco in his presentation Revealing Design Treasures from the Amazon (the Target example starts on slide 26).
- Christian Holst summarizes the different reasons why copying Amazon might be harmful - The “Just Copy Amazon” Fallacy
- Jakob Nielsen writes that “copying successful designs is not a foolproof way to improve your own site’s business value […] and has many pitfalls” in Should You Copy a Famous Site’s Design?
In another article, he shows the weak points of Amazon’s design and why most sites shouldn’t copy it. - Amazon: No Longer the Role Model for E-Commerce Design
- Linda Bustos explains the top reasons why your website cannot compare to Amazon: Amazon is one of the biggest websites in terms of traffic and user base. It can afford to sell some items below cost and even allows third-party ads and items on its product pages (cannibalizing its own sales). It also has enough users for features like reviews or Listmania. - 10 Reasons Not to Copy Amazon, a brilliant read.
- A study found that Amazon.com “was perceived in the usability testing to have the slowest home page loading speeds of the 20 websites studied, and to have one of the most confusing home pages. But users said before and after the website testing that they were likely to use and/or recommend Amazon to a friend.
'Amazon had already been visited by 71% of the usability testers,' notes Ms. Frank, 'so the familiarity with the site and the strong brand recognition were able to overcome flaws that would have been the kiss of death to lesser known websites.'”
- Joshua Porter argues that mindlessly copying a design — that of Amazon or Facebook for example — is a horrible idea. When you copy, you don’t know the reasons behind a design, you’re not responding directly to your customer needs, you’re devaluing your own data. - Copycat Design
- All that said, copying or stealing a design cleverly is what designers should do. As Pablo Picasso put it: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” - Don’t Copy a Design — Steal It, also quoted in Great designers steal by Jeff Veen.