September 6, 2011, 1:28 PM

A facelift for Amazon

The e-retailer is rolling out a design that emphasizes digital products and site search.

Lead Photo

A look at the new design for Amazon.com

Amazon.com Inc. quietly began rolling out a new web site design last week that rearranges some home page navigation options and emphasizes search.

Access to the new design is limited at this time and the e-retailer did not immediately respond to questions about the design. It is not clear when, or if, the redesigned site will be available to all consumers.

Screen shots published on the web by users who accessed the new design, and published on technology blog TheNextWeb.com, show that the home page features more white space, and the navigation bar consumers are used to seeing on the left side of the home page is now part of a “shop all departments” pull-down menu that appears in the previous space to the left the search box. The new design, as does Amazon’s existing design, lists Amazon’s digitally delivered product categories like Instant Video and MP3s ahead of product categories for physical goods such as books, movies, music and games.

However, the new design gives more home page real estate to digitally delivered products and services offered by Amazon. Links to Amazon’s MP3 Store, Instant Video, Kindle Store, Cloud Player, Cloud Drive and Audible Audiobooks products and services appear on the home page as tabs arranged horizontally beneath the search box. A link to games and software downloads and the Appstore for Android also appear as part of that horizontal navigation format. Although Amazon has not confirmed it, Amazon is expected to introduce an Android-based tablet computer to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPad in the coming months.

Amazon also retooled the site search box in the new design. Previously appearing on a dark blue background but now backed with shades of gray, the new search box includes a “search in” tool within the box that appears to let consumers limit their searches to a particular department. The pull-down menu that consumers typically used to limit text searches to a particular department disappears with the new design.

Colin Sebastian, an analyst who follows Amazon for investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co., says Amazon.com is overdue for a redesign. “Amazon is a great e-commerce site and it merchandises well, but there is a sense among some consumers that it is cluttered,” he says. “Compared to the simplicity of Google, Amazon is on the opposite extreme.” He says the emphasis the new design appears to put on site search also points to Amazon becoming a de facto e-commerce search engine for consumers. “The most important thing on the home page is the same as the most important thing on Google, and that is the search box,” he says.

Amazon reported $19.77 billion in total sales for the first two quarters of 2011, up 44.3% from 2010’s first half. Amazon is No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

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