January 24, 2014, 2:09 PM

Amazon’s mobile design is a work in progress

Amazon has steadily improved its m-commerce site design, but there’s still room to improve, according to a critique in the 2014 Guide to E-Commerce Site Design & Usability. It’s one of 48 leading m-commerce sites reviewed in the guide.

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With mobile commerce growing annually at 100% and mobile sales reaching an Internet Retailer-estimated $8 billion in 2013, Amazon’s m-commerce site is built to handle a big load.

But from a design and usability perspective, Amazon’s mobile design could be more user-friendly and intuitive for researching products, according to a critique by Pivotal Labs, a mobile commerce consulting and research firm. “Amazon is not known for groundbreaking design, as conversion has always been its focus, but its mobile site has come a long way,” says Pivotal Labs. “It uses white space well with strongly contrasted calls to action. The home page layout has a clear, concise hierarchy.”

The critique of Amazon’s mobile site by Pivotal Labs is one of 48 critiques of America’s leading m-commerce sites in Internet Retailer’s newly published 2014 Guide to E-Commerce Site Design & Usability. In the latest research study published by Internet Retailer, six of the country’s top web designers also point out the best design features—and some of the design flaws—of 60 leading retail web sites in 15 merchandise categories.

The all-new 409-page 2014 Guide to E-Commerce Site Design & Usability also provides scores of practical tips for improving retail site design and e-commerce sales.

Amazon’s mobile design is built for helping mobile shoppers easily complete a transaction, but could use some improvement for searching for products. “Categories, filtering and sorting are quite buried, so browsing is a bit of a pain,” says Pivotal Labs. “The site focuses more on converting intent to purchase and research, and less on discoverability of new products.”

Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment on Pivotal Lab’s mobile design critique. But Amazon continues to expand its mobile commerce initiatives, primarily via mobile app. Internet Retailer estimates Amazon’s mobile app accounted for $2.67 billion, or 30%, of its mobile sales last year. Among other mobile initiatives last year Amazon launched Mobile Associates API, or application programming interface, which enables mobile app developers to sell physical goods with within their apps via Amazon.

Overall, the biggest improvement Amazon can make when it comes to m-commerce site design is paying more attention to the use of images, including the central, or “hero,” image. “The hero images look outdated, third-party banners and appear to link outside the site. Many of the product images are pixelated, which is very noticeable on larger screens with retina display,” says Pivotal Labs. A pixelated image is divided into larger pixels or pieces so that it is difficult to see clearly.

In addition to the 108 site critiques, the newly published 2014 Guide to E-Commerce Site Design & Usability  contains the key web site features, functions and design metrics of the Internet Retailer Top 1000, and profiles, pricing and product information on more than 200 providers of design and usability products and services.

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