Who is the key user? This isn’t always clear, especially in marketplace sites, so take your best guess.
For Amazon, the key user is someone that wants to buy something, though a secondary user would be someone doing research on a product or book.
What is that user’s number one critical goal when using the site? Be as specific as possible if there are multiple options here, e.g. “to purchase a red wagon” instead of “buy a toy”.
To purchase something quickly, ideally, for the lowest price one can find on and offline and that best suits the user’s needs based on user information, product descriptions, and reviews. Also to do topic research. For example, if someone wanted to research if Amazon reviewers got any real benefit from taking turmeric, they would research the reviews from several brands of turmeric supplements.
What is likely to make that user’s experience particularly positive (i.e. provide good satisfaction)?
I think speed is a key component with Amazon. After doing a search for what the user thinks he or she wants, the user needs to be able to assess a number of products presented and become clear on which one is best suited for his or her needs. Also, finding a good price or and easy check out are key. For return users, being able to find a product again is very good at creating a good experience. The one downside to this is that there is a learning curve to a somewhat complex presentation, so it may take a while for users to know where to go to find what they are looking for or to ask for help. Also, the amount of information and products on Amazon can be overwhelming to the visitor, and they do not have the benefit of touching the item or demoing it (like a camera) before they buy, which can be crucial to the purchase decision-making process.
What is the approximate information architecture of the site?
What is the flow through that architecture for the user who is accomplishing the critical goal you identified above?
The goal to buy something quickly is accomplished by the user easily because the focus of Amazon’s homepage is to get the user to the products and then to the cart and then to the final checkout page (information flow #1).
But it can go even faster if the user has already put something in the cart (perhaps from the previous visit), so the user can go directly to cart (information flow #2) or, even better, directly to the final checkout page (information flow #3).
What style(s) of navigation is/are used? Do they answer the key questions (Where am I and how did I get here? Where should I go next and how do I get there?)
Amazon primarily uses navigation bars at the top of the screen. A user always knows where he or she is, can easily get back to Amazon’s homepage (except from the checkout page – see below), and is even given hits on some of the pages in the search bar and the navigation bar below the search bar to get clear on where he or she is and to dive deeper into that area of the website.
What key interactions does the user have? Are they clear and usable?
The key interactions are (1) deciding to purchase an item, (2) approving cart contents and (3) confirming the final purchase and shipping. Yes, these are all quite clear.
What did the site do well to allow the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
Amazon is excellent at helping users do general and specific searches to find the right product quickly and for the price they want to pay. Adding an option to go to the cart or the checkout page on every page adds to this efficiency to get the user to make the buying decision and then complete the financial end of the transaction. There is little friction in this process.
What did the site do poorly when allowing the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
All of these page connections are reversible (in that, you can go backward and shop some more) EXCEPT on the final checkout page. From a UX standpoint (and from my own personal experience) they make it very challenging from the final cart to go back and amend selections.
One must either click on the “Amazon” logo or the “(# items)” to go back to the card, but there is no direct way to go back to products.
This is frustrating because sometimes there are surprises on the final checkout page (shipping rates were not as expected or the user remembers another item they need at the last minute, for example) and the user would like to go directly go back and shop some more, but has to (1) find the clickable link to go back, which is not obvious and (2) go to the cart before going to the products area on the Amazon.com website.