January 30, 2001, 5:16 PM

Survey respondents praise Amazon.com

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Amazon.com is among the best e-commerce sites, according to a clear majority of information architects surveyed this holiday season. More surprising, though, were responses that showed the usability of sites as more important than appearance, and poor organization of a site being more bothersome than a site that's slow to load. The Argus Center for Information Architecture, sponsored by Argus Associates, polled information architects -- professionals who specialize in content, navigation, labeling, browsing, and search issues for web sites and intranets. The Zoomerang survey asked participants what works and what doesn't in creating an effective online shopping experience. It was publicized to the small-but-growing information architecture niche through several professional listservs, and 130 people took the questionnaire. Most of those who participated said they did little to some of their shopping online this year. Naming their top three peeves, professionals most often cited the checkout process (35 votes), followed by organization (32), then slow sites and shipping, which tied at 30. Search functions (25), visual design (23), and navigation (19) also were listed. Of 109 people who named a most usable site, 74 of them named Amazon.com, with comments including "no one else can compete" and "use it so much, everything's become automatic." But being the industry giant brings criticism, with negative comments such as "still ignore the front page because it's too confusing," "horrible site to navigate" and "doesn't always have complete information." No clear losers emerged in asking for least usable sites.

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