Recently an Amazon Kindle came into my life.

To test it out I obtained a free copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles from the online store and started reading. I was an instant convert. I loved the experience and I loved the concept.

Until, that is , I found my way into Chapter 2 and there were vital passages missing from the text. It soiled my experience with the Kindle.

There are a number of lessons here. Obviously, there’s the whole caveat emptor, you get what you pay for scenario. A little bit of research would have shown me this review that tells me up-front what to expect:

This edition is missing certain passages… Whenever there is a point in the story where a character reads out of a newspaper or other document, that passage is missing from this Kindle edition. Spend a dollar and get a different version.

But the other lesson is more a question for thought. Why would Amazon keep the book in their store if it’s not what people are expecting? There is no obvious avenue to inform Amazon of the problem with the book and no way to ask them to remove the book so other people don’t fall into the same trap.

When building the user interface of an online store, there are many things to take into account. Feedback is vital for any business. Amazon and Zappos have built empires with great customer service but customer service is about a lot more than just an attentive complaints department or a good returns policy.

Great customer service starts with the user interface. It’s the experience a customer has when they browse or purchase a product. A bad UI is like having a rude salesperson on the shop floor. A customer should be able to trust that the seller is looking out for them. There should be a way to bring issues of faulty products to the attention of the sellers.

Sometimes there are use-cases that just aren’t foreseen. But when they reveal themselves it’s important for an online store to be able to adapt.

So there are things that Amazon could have implemented to make my experience better. A roll-over information box that showed me the start of the most helpful review, for example, could have given me the information I needed to make my decision to purchase or not.

These are the small design things; the small usability things that we try to develop every day.

Recently I designed some wireframes for an online store. It’s hard. I had to balance the client’s budget with the limited information I had, the inclusion and prioritisation of use-cases, and a degree of future-proofing to allow for unforeseen developments.

There is a lot of information to include in an online store. There are lots of buttons and lots of icons to demand a customer’s attention. It’s important to remember, however, that customers want something very simple: They want to buy stuff and for it to behave as expected. Give them that and the rest will follow.

About Josh Kinal

Josh makes things on the web easy to use and understand. Sounds simple, but it’s not. His understanding of developing engaging content comes from many years of writing for print and radio. You might have heard him on Boxcutters, his popular weekly podcast about TV or years of appearing on Triple J, Radio National and 3RRR. He also holds a science degree and in 2012 was one of Australia’s few panelists at SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas