Some prettty amazing finds about Amazon from my Usability Tests — Seriously

Ok, all. So, I did a bunch of Usability Tests (UT for short) today. 10 of them in total. And, I’m gonna tell you that what I found was very, very eye-opening and revealing to me, even on my own design, and even after all the research and competition analysis that I did. So cool.

Just to set it up for you, I focused my UT on the reviews section of Amazon. More specifically I wanted to see if I could improve the trust and filtering experience on the website. Could I? Is it possible, considering how huge the company is. After all, we all use it, right?

From doing my user interviews some of the people told me how they don’t know if they can trust the reviews. After all, from what they heard, some phony companies actually hire people to write fake reviews for them, or maybe the review is just totally off the mark and irrelevant. Others told me how they just struggle searching through the reviews, that some products have like thousands and thousands of reviews, but what if I just want to find a specific segment of a review?

Ok, cool. Let’s just focus on one of these stories at a time. The trust value first.

How do I trust you, baby?

Just joking about the baby part. No, but seriously, how can you trust the Amazon experience? I asked my Usability Test participants ‘what makes you want to buy this product over another product? What makes you trust this experience? Why do you trust Amazon?’ I saw their brains turning and twisting, trying to really figure out their own actions and decisions of the big ‘why?’ question. Some of them told me that they look at the pictures, that real-user pics, detailed reviews with a bunch of examples, good, numerous reviews, the popularity of numbers of people buying the product, these are some of the things that sell them. Others told me that what they look at is professionalism: if the review has grammar mistakes, typos, misspelled words, this is something that drives them away from trusting that brand, product, or even a review. Curious, very curious. I think I learned a lot from this exercise, but that’s not all. Not at all.

What did I find about my prototype’s design, what people told me, and if it really addressed the trustworthiness of it?

My design:

Try to find this product on Amazon. I’m going to make a wild assumption that it will take you a while to type in all of that title in the search section (try to cover the image of the product and figure out what this is through the title). Ok, we’re not talking about titles though, so moving on.

So, on the regular Amazon’s website, the ratings section in this hero page (the part of the screen you see when you click on a web-page) is just one rating, one 5-star review. After looking at other websites, like Audible, I thought that maybe this solution would help solve the whole trust issue. Did it? Nope.

What did people tell me? They said that they liked having it there. However, it was pretty confusing. Time and time again almost every single user told me that they didn’t understand what ‘proof’ or ‘image/video’ or ‘buyer description’ meant. If they had to ask me what it meant, then I knew that it just wasn’t working. However, they also gave me solutions to this, like a hover menu educating them about it, or a ‘quick view’ button (especially if on a mobile).

Second story now.

I want to find reviews about this Christmas blouse’s durability…

Ok, that’s not a real experience (maybe?), but we’re doing an example. How can I find specific reviews? How can I filter reviews? What if there are 10,000 reviews on this product?

What Amazon DOES have currently is these light green buttons that are pre-selected for you ahead of time to choose from. This is what they look like:

My question to this would be: what if I want to read a review that has something else, something not listed here? How would I do that? People I talked to, most of them, had no idea that Amazon actually had a ‘search within the reviews’ tab. It is in there, BUT you have to like really, really look for it to find it. From my search, that tab was all the way at the bottom, at the end of all the reviews… Why would you do that? Someone else showed me a different way to find it. Why make it so difficult to find, though?

Anyways, this is what I made my search/filter section look like:

By no means is this perfect. However, I wanted to place everything in one place, not all over. I wanted to make it EASY to access, since that’s the whole point of a good website experience — ease of use. People liked this. They also liked the ‘sort by’ section I added. Amazon does have something there right now that is similar to this, but it only helps you access the ‘top reviews’ and ‘most recent’. That is not enough. There are so many other options that Amazon could do to help users sort through the reviews, like ‘Verified Purchase’ or ‘Top Reviews’ or ‘Worst Reviews’ or ‘Oldest First’ among others. These, and other ‘small fixes’ would help create a way better experience, save time and energy in browsing through these. Ok, case closed. Yeah? Maybe.

Final Thoughts. Period.

Besides my two stories - the trust and filter, people told me many other, highly unforeseen factors on my part, about how UX (user experience) of this page could be improved. I was kinda blown away, to tell the truth.

For example, one of my colleagues, Brandyn, told me some stuff that was seemingly so simple, and so out there, and could be SO revolutionary if incorporated into an experience of a website like Amazon (I’m wondering now if someone is gonna take these ideas and later apply to their e-commerce sites… hmmm).

Here’s what Brandyn told me:

“What if you could actually follow a reviewer and what products they review? Cause you know, maybe I really like that reviewer’s review and they sound really cool.” This is Twitter incorporated into Amazon space. Ha. Wouldn’t you wanna do that, Amazon? eh? If people COULD do that, I think that one reviewer could become like a Youtube star where others follow them and are influenced to buy or do what they say. Reviewers could become Amazon Super-Star-Reviewers! Let’s work on the title later. Thank you very much.

“What if you could see how many reviews has this reviewer given to this company or this product?” Eureka again Brandyn! Like seriously! Wouldn’t this concept possibly, just possibly help eliminate or solve the whole problem of fake reviews given by hired people? It just might. I mean if I see that this reviewer gave that product 100 reviews, I am TOTALLY NOT gonna trust him/her. Totally not.

“Sort by reviewer name.” Another Brandy’s idea. My God man. I love this. Sort by a reviewer’s name… I’m sure there’s some way to do that, somehow. I do know that this would/could give more validity, or if I want to follow a Super-Star-Reviewers reviews too!

Some others (by some other people):

  • What most everyone told me is when looking at reviews they usually first look at the negative reviews. They don’t really trust the reviews that are just consistently 5 stars and just so positive all over.
  • Reviews section with all the people’s reviews should be higher
  • Is there a way to create some kind of a navigation menu within the page to help me jump to that section faster, like maybe at the top of the product? Like, if I want to get to the reviews section within the page, could I just click on a ‘reviews’ button right at the top instead of having to scroll for 30 seconds?
  • I want to know ‘durability’ of the product, the stars reviews that are more specific than just ‘buyer description’ etc.
  • Slimmer-down page = better
  • Bullet points and breaking down of sections = better
  • ‘Unhelpful’ button next to ‘Helpful’?
  • Dimensions are unclear: “We bought this cat off of Amazon. It arrived in the wrong size… What could we do?” Maybe positioning the item in contrast to other household items, in pictures?
  • Who exactly gave reviews to those 5 standards (‘buyer description’, ‘image/video’, ‘overall’) at the top? Industry standards or customers?
  • Hover feature is just SO needed here. I need it!!! (I mean me, personally).
  • The 5-section review is a bit clunky. Maybe better as a pop-up/hover feature? Something to consider…
  • Possible reviews of: price, durability, maintenance, set-up… Could you filter ‘warnings’?

Ok, this is the final final. Sorry, I lied before — smiley face.

Just to illustrate WHY usability tests are so important, I’m gonna give you one final example (in a story form?).

My first interview started with Clint. After he did his test of my prototype, we talked about his experience, how it went, all that jazz. One thing that I noted was him saying how “some of those reviews are a book.” I was like ‘yeah.’

After Clint I talked to Trish. She also told me how she almost never reads the reviews if they’re really long. She doesn’t even skim, unless they are somehow sectioned off, or they have bullet points. I was like ‘hah, wow. Cool.’

Then, my third customer of the day was John (John that sits next to me, not the one on the far side by the windows). So, what happened during John’s test, I remember, is after he read through my scenario (I had everyone read these short scenarios to put themselves in the shoes of this portable washing machine’s buyer), basically I asked him how he would filter the reviews. And, what he did right away is he went to read the reviews themselves specifically. He did not go to my designed section of where you can ‘search within the reviews’ or click on the light green buttons to filter them. He was reading the reviews to see how he could filter them.

I think that a yellow light bulb just clicked on inside of my head. I was like ‘aha!’ And like ‘wow!’ What if you could actually filter the review itself, since as Clint said they are ‘like a book’, some of them, and like Trish said ‘if it’s too long I don’t even read it’. And then I thought about Facebook. And I thought about Facebook’s emojis on liking or loving or whatever else for the posted pictures and posts. That is really fun. People like fun. They like images, funny images.

So, I thought then, what IF right next to each review, like on the right side of a review, Amazon had these 3 small emojis: a smiley face, a neutral face, and a frown face. When you click on a smiley face, within that review, everything that is happy gets highlighted in yellow. When you click on the neutral smiley face, everything that neutral gets highlighted in green, and if it’s the frown face, then everything that’s negative becomes red. Wouldn’t that be fun? Clint later told me that I should also add a ‘robot emoji’ to help see if this review was written by a robot. Fun.

But this is just the basis of all the AMAZING stuff that can come out of doing a Usability Test. These are my findings from my U.T.s of today.

Thanks for reading! :)