A critical appraisal of Amazon's website was conducted providing a benchmark for other sites. The sites key characteristics were identified; it was found many were inter-related. Design for instance demonstrably fitted context of use, considered crucial to online success. It was found usability is an important concept, which Amazon has successfully related to navigation, content and layout.
The importance of engineering principles should not be underestimated. The report demonstrates that the most competitive websites will adhere to these as well as legal and ethical issues.
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Amazon has strengthened their online position through their business models. Virtual community and associate network have ensured mass customization, strategies we recommend our client imitates to enhance reputation.
Our report will comprise of two sections. Section one, will be attributed to critically appraising Amazon’s website, a major threat to our clients online success. Using Amazon as a benchmark, we will emphasize their key characteristics and make recommendations to our client regarding enhancement of their own e-business strategy. The importance of engineering principles will be extensively covered as well as legal and ethical issues associated with conducting business online.
In section two, we will critically appraise the business models used by Amazon, identifying their sources of competitive advantage. The technology used to facilitate their success will also be addressed.
Impact of the homepage:
Amazon’s homepage provides the user with an overview of their whole site, which is vitally important as (Nielsen, 2002) explains "The homepage is your company's face to the world." As recommended by Nielsen (2002) Amazon has used a tagline to capture and communicate the essence of the company; making the sites purpose immediately clear “Amazon.com: Online shopping for electronics, apparel, music, books, DVDs ; more.” Their logo is also apparent, boosting brand awareness, differentiating identity from competitors and providing familiarity to users. It can be found in the top left hand corner of the homepage, showing standard HTML conventions have been adopted.
Amazon use standard blue hyperlinks, tab navigation, browse box, graphics and a search input box to help users interactively navigate the site, in a simple, easy to use fashion. Key worded category hyperlinks, emphasize product variety and the sites most important sections. Amazon is a path-based homepage; we recommend duplicating this approach to split the audience immediately into interest groups and to offer them specific, more relevant information in menu pages deeper within the site. (Lynch and Horton, 2002.)
Amazon reveals real site content (Nielsen, 2002) offering easy access to recent homepage features. Homepages are updated regularly; visual graphics are kept meaningful and often represent new releases and recommendations, adding to the informal site personality. Text and graphic design is simple, increasing loading time. Color is basic, mainly white. We recommend the use of a white background; it makes the content easier to read “White in its nothingness acts as a wonderful balance between colors.” (Vaishali Singh, 2001.) Amazon's homepage is space efficient. VG Jones should also aim to utilize space, although avoid over advertising which slows loading time.
Amazon's homepage design demonstrably fits the sites context of use. We recommend both areas should be inter-related.
Amazon's one-click ordering system considerably increases purchasing efficiency. An A9 searching organizes bookmarks and saves browsing history, helping flexibility and efficiency of use.
Amazon has personalized features with areas "New for you" and "Your store" tailored to user interests and a "Wish list" to track items.
Due to the complexity and diversity of large scale web development it is vital VG Jones adhere to web engineering principles when re-developing their site. These principles offer a disciplined approach to achieving the most competitive website. Engineering principles will ultimately affect profit; costs of bad design are high. Our client must consider the Quality Requirements addressed by (Pressman, 2000) and aim to maximize performance in usability, functionality, reliability, efficiency and maintainability. Engineering principles will prevent problems with outdated or irrelevant information, slow response, crashes or security breaches to which web applications are sensitive.
Engineering principles will minimize risk; improve quality, maintainability and scalability. (Murugesan et al, 1999.) Software Configuration Management and Quality Control should be addressed to maintain standards. Testing will help our client plan, monitor, control and cope with the challenge of their web application.
Legal and security issues:
Legal and ethical issues are vital to online success. Building trust and user confidence is essential to our client, respecting consumer privacy and adhering to data protection legislation. "Consumers are extremely concerned about security and privacy on the Internet" (Trepper, 2000.) Amazon's Safe Shopping Guarantee means customers pay nothing if unauthorized charges are made to their credit cards as a result of shopping at Amazon. They use secure sockets layer (SSL) technology encrypting all personal information. "Amazon takes customer fears about security seriously" (Chaffey, 2004) we strongly recommend VG Jones emulate Amazon's security policies to provide customer reassurance.
Amazon makes clear terms of trade and offer warranties/returns policy. They address copyright, patents and trademark protection, which is quite distinguishing factor.
Amazon's homepage acted as an overview to their site, emphasizing reasons for use and product variety. Their path based homepage was inter-related to navigation helping segment users into areas of interest. Design demonstrably fits context of use.
It was found Amazon's fundamental goal was profit but competition is intense in the virtual marketplace. Usability was inter-related to many other characteristics (content, navigation and layout.) Amazon offered efficiency, personalization, interaction and control to improve usability.
Engineering principles were a necessity in the complexity/diversity surrounding online activity. Legal and ethical issues are vital to security conscious users.
Amazon, an e-commerce only intermediary, have utilized their virtualized value system for economies of scale and global reach. Their virtual community model has excelled in customer relations, aiding brand image. Associates and business model flexibility have sustained competitive advantage.
Chaffey, D. (2004) E-Business and E-Commerce Management,
2nd Edition, Prentice Hall, Pearson Education Limited, pp.46, 53, 55, 224, 492.
Lynch, P. & Horton, S. (2002) Web Style Guide, 2nd Edition.
Retrieved 6, March 2008 from http://www.webstyleguide.com/.
Murugesan, S. & Ginige, A. (2005) Web Engineering: Introduction
Nielsen, J. (2002) Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability.
Retrieved 6, March 2008 from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20020512.html.
Pressman. R. (2000) Software Engineering: A Practitioners
Approach, McGrawHill, Maidenhead.
Singh, V. (2001) Colour Design for the Web. Retrieved 6, March
2008 from http://coolhomepages.com/cda/color/
Trepper, C. (2000) E-Commerce Strategies, Mapping your
Organisations success in today's competitive marketplace, Microsoft Press, pp.138-140, 153.
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