The Problem we solved
We saw in the data and during usability studies that users did not understand where they were on the site, how they got there, or how to get where they wanted to go. Amazon's Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry department had grown over time into a taxonomy that was organized more around internal business structure than user's expectations.
The Challenges we encountered
Resources & Planning
This problem was not on Amazon's radar to be solved that year, or ever. And we were already three months into the year's work. We had to convince the entire company leadership that this was the most important thing we could do for the business. (And we did!)
As companies grow, navigation that represents internal corporate structure is not uncommon, and ux adjustments at this point are usually quick to implement. However, because of the scale at which Amazon operates and because of the multiple legacy systems that needed to be changed in order to make these updates, this project became one of the largest and most complex cross-team projects in Amazon's history. Thankfully, we had an incredibly dedicated product manager (Jen Walsh) who saw it all the way through.
How I Helped
Research & Strategy
I identified the initial problems (by reviewing research, usability studies and apparel commerce best practices) and created the vision for new navigation patterns that matched user expectations and allowed for better product merchandising.
Tailored Solution that included UX, Taxonomy & Visual Designs
This was accomplished by building a new top-level taxonomy, consolidating and cleaning up duplicate or competing content, setting consistent wayfinding points for the user, and adding additional helpful navigation elements like a sub-nav dropdown (which was adopted and used by other departments after it launched).
Presenting & Selling the concept to Senior Leadership
I then presented this vision to VPs and SVPs at Amazon (who report directly to Jeff Bezos). It was made one of the highest priority project for the Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry department for the next year.
Huge Revenue Increase
After it launched, the Wayfinding project nearly doubled revenue from the Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry part of Amazon's business.
Resolved Major Usability Issues
After the project launched we saw an increase in key positive behavior (like cross category shopping, and number of items added to cart), and a decrease in negative behaviors like page or site abandonment.
New features added to Amazon ecosystem
The expanding contextually relevant left nav was a huge technical win within Amazon's framework. It showed what was possible, as well as what was needed to achieve it (which was previously unexplored and unknown). Additionally, other parts of Amazon's business have begun using the subnav dropdown pattern we created.
A COMMON SENSE TAXONOMY
When you go shopping for apparel, you usually choose to go to the women's department, or mens, or kids, or baby. After that choice, you start looking for shirts, pants, shoes or accessories. Amazon wasn't set up this way, and it confused users and made them backtrack all over the site while trying to buy apparel. The navigation links also changed on nearly every page, so users often lost their place and abandoned mid-session. The old taxonomy also made it very difficult for merchandisers to tell a compelling overarching story for the season (this jacket, with these pants, and those shoes, with that watch, etc.). We switched the top two levels of our taxonomy to lead with gender and age, and kept it consistently displayed regardless of where you were in the department.
New dropdown menuS
We added a dropdown menu to the sub-nav that used images to quickly present the primary options under each new department, as well as promotional messaging.
We also kept the side navigation open, showing your path-to-page in the hierarchy. This made it easier to jump between similar types of products (like button up shirts, polos, t-shirts, etc.).
We created clearer groupings for the content in the left nav: Features, Categories, Shops, and Sale.
We created a section of custom shops for specific customer segments (like maternity, medical, plus size, petite, juniors, etc.). The goal was to make it very easy for those customers to find relevant and helpful products.