Amazon.com’s Social Design

Joshua Porter

March 5th, 2007

Every day now it seems that another web site “Goes Social”, which means they add social features like those found on social networking sites MySpace, Facebook, and Digg. The latest example is the national news site USAToday, which recently redesigned and added several social features including the ability to comment on stories, rate stories, and recommend stories to others. Here is a full list of the new features as described by the design team.

At UIE we’ve been watching social sites for a while now, and we’ve seen many social features, including the ones added by USAToday, become commonplace over the last few years. It comes as no surprise that large organizations are seeing the value of connecting their users in ever-beneficial ways like they’re trying to do at USAToday.

But even though big sites adding many social features at a time draws lots of attention, there is one site that is way ahead of everyone else, offering a myriad of social features that eclipses the field, hands down. That site is Amazon.com. Now, we’re not feature counters by any means, but we have seen the features on Amazon provide a tremendous amount of value to users during testing of the site. The product reviews, for example, are a huge advantage Amazon holds over other e-commerce sites…people really trust the reviews there compared to everywhere else. I wrote about this phenomenon in The Amazon Effect.

But just how social is Amazon, you ask? Well, pretty darn social. In a slide from the presentation I gave at the UIE Web App Summit, I outlined 11 social features on the iPod product page at Amazon. The slide wasn’t very effective, however, as it only contained small screen-shots of the features laid on top of one another. It didn’t show the scope of what Amazon was doing with social features.

I’ve now found a better way to visualize what Amazon is doing. The following is a screen-shot of the entire iPod product page at Amazon, with 16! social features highlighted throughout the page:

social features on amazon.com

This is a clear indication that Amazon is making a huge investment in social features…and suggests that maybe it’s Amazon who should be getting the big press. Part of the reason why they don’t receive lots of press, of course, is that Amazon releases features one-at-a-time…slow enough that it creeps up on us.

5 Responses to “Amazon.com’s Social Design”

  1. Achtentachtig Says:

    Don’t forget that Amazon is (one of) the most popular stores on the internet. With such a big customer base and high amount of visitors those social functions are being used optimal. Implementing this amount of social functions in smaller e-commerce websites wouldn’t do much good. Customer reviews, ratings and such will remain blank.

    But then of course the question rises: What should come first: visitors or social functions? Without visitors social functions are useless. But visitors are not useless without social functions. So first visitors then social functions.

  2. ruthsarian Says:

    I see you’ve listed options that you consider “social”.

    Now how about discussing the how/why each “social” item benefits the site/company? What sites and when should people add similar features to their own? Is there ever a time when one shouldn’t use a given “social” feature?

  3. Joshua Porter Says:

    Great question Ruthsarian. Working on it…

  4. Will Sullivan's Journerdism » South by Southwest Web Awards; Gen Y narcissists; Online video–less artsy fartsy, more reporting please; Amazon’s social design; Are you bored? Says:

    [...] Amazon.com’s Social Design 16 social features! [...]

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