Copying the designs and features of popular web sites is something we all do. I do it. You do it. It makes sense…why put a bunch of thought into something when someone has already done it for you? Making things familiar for your visitors is not a bad strategy but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid designing your web experience for your visitors.
Following the leader
When designing an ecommerce experience you will inevitably hear a reference to Amazon.
“That’s how Amazon does it.”
Everyone wants the success of Amazon so that means you should copy what they’ve done, right? Not exactly.
Amazon has millions upon millions of visitors every day and that means they piles upon piles of data about their customers…how they shop, what they buy, when they buy and what they use to buy. Amazon also probably has an entirely different strategy than you do, so why copy them?
You can read more about how Amazon’s business is different than your business, but the point remains the same – just because they did it one way, doesn’t mean you should do it that way.
A tailored experience
The experience of any web site should be tailored for your audience. If your audience is broad then you need a broad design (like Amazon). If your audience is more narrow then you can make certain assumptions and design accordingly. Every case is different. There’s no silver bullet.
Amazon isn’t “doing it right” because there is no right answer (of course, they’re not doing it wrong either). It’s working for them and that’s great…for them…not you. Don’t copy Amazon feature for feature because you’ll either miss something important or you’ll work a lot harder than you need.
Using Amazon as a starting point to talk about what will work and what won’t is the right tactic. Use the likes of Amazon for inspiration. If you find a step in Amazon’s path that makes sense, then copy it. Use it. But think about each step and decide if it really works for you, your customers and for what you’re selling.
One size does not fit all
And as is common for my articles thus far…lets not forget about responsive design. Amazon’s website isn’t responsive. They have a separate website for mobile devices and they also have a native app. When you’re designing responsively, some interactions just don’t translate well between “large” and “small” device sizes (namely dropdown menus), which means you have to come up with alternate solutions.
Yes, Amazon is successful and part of that success is due to the web experience, but that experience was designed for their customers and only their customers. Same goes for Target, Walmart and other big online retailers. They’ve made choices that are best for their customers and their business. Use success examples like those as a starting point for your own experience design discussions but don’t just copy them blindly. Your business deserves it, your products deserve it and your customers deserve it.