The core activities at Amazon.com are browsing, searching, and purchasing products. If you've spent any time at Amazon.com, then you know it has millions of products in dozens of categories beyond the books for which it is primarily known. Thinking of the site in terms of individual pages is overwhelming; thinking in terms of page templates is much more manageable. A template is like a document shell that can be used over and over again to display information. The shell is filled with whatever information is requested at the time. In these terms, Amazon has only a handful of templates, including search results, category home pages, and product detail pages. Looking at the structure instead of the information makes it much easier to understand how Amazon operates.
Every Amazon page offers information for your perusal, and actions you can perform. Information includes book titles, prices, customer reviews?anything that adds to your knowledge of products and helps you make a buying decision. Actions include adding a product to your cart or Wish List, posting a review, rating an item, making a purchase?anything that explicitly provides Amazon.com with input or a directive.
You can think of a product detail page as the home page of a particular item at Amazon. It's the workhorse of Amazon.com, and studying what's available there provides insight into almost all of the site's features. Figure 1-1 shows a typical product detail page, this one for Google Hacks, a sibling of the book you're reading.
What you'll see first on any product detail page is an image of the product (if available) and quick product details:
The most important product detail, of course, is what the item is called. A book might have extra information, like its subtitle or series, in its title. An electronic gadget might include a manufacturer's model number.
Books list all of the authors, and sometimes editors and illustrators. Other products may list the manufacturer in place of the author. CDs include the artist.
Prices shown include the manufacturer's list price, the Amazon.com price, and the lowest third-party price Section 4.2.
This is an estimate of how soon Amazon can ship the product. In some cases, Amazon can't ship the product at all because it's out of print.
This refers to the binding of a book, usually Hardcover or Paperback. Other editions include School & Library Binding, Large Print, Leather Bound, Audiobook, etc.
Beyond learning more about the product, there are several actions you can take from a product detail page:
Just like a real-world shopping cart, you can add items into a holding area and buy them as a group later?minus the wobbly wheel. And unlike a real store, you can pick up your cart where you left off last time. Wish Lists [Hack #18] and registries also hold items, but you have the option of making them public so other people can buy things for you.
From the product detail page you can start the process of listing your used version of that item for sale on Amazon [Hack #49].
You can also find and order the product from third parties?anyone from other Amazon customers to other bookstores Section 4.2.
Hate a certain product? Love it? Want to warn others or recommend something else? You can start voicing your opinion [Hack #27] from the detail page for that product.
Even further down the page, you'll find more product information:
This is the format the product is in: paperback, CD, DVD, etc. You may find additional information such as the number of pages in the book or the item's dimensions.
This is the name of the company that produced the item.
An ASIN is a unique ID for every product, and being able to find this ID [Hack #1] is key for many of the hacks in this book.
As people write reviews, they also give the item a rating of 1-5 stars. The average rating is how the group feels about the product [Hack #32].
This is the sales position relative to other items at Amazon.com. An item with a sales rank of 1 is the best-selling item on Amazon. An item with a sales rank of 1,822,605 is a bit further down the line. With sales rank, lower is better.
Customers who bought the item you're looking at also purchased similar items, and Amazon lists the most popular related items. You'll also find information that other customers have left about an item.
Along the lines of similar purchased items, this is advice from other customers [Hack #40] about other products that may be better than or go well with the product you're looking at.
If a product is particularly popular in a certain geographic location or at an organization, Amazon will list that information [Hack #44].
Highlighted editorial reviews are from professional journals or Amazon's in-house editors. Customer reviews are from other Amazon customers. Reviews rated favorably by other customers become spotlight reviews.
Also known as "So You'd Like To...", these are guides [Hack #37] to any topic written by other Amazon.com customers. If you'd like to learn how to make a martini or "chill out" properly, you'll probably find a guide for it at Amazon. If a guide contains the product you're looking at, it might show up as one of the top three on the product detail page.
Similar to guides, these are lists of books [Hack #41] created by Amazon customers.
This is a list of categories [Hack #8] and keywords that the product is categorized under.
All of this information can tell you as much about Amazon.com as it can about the product you're viewing. You can see that Amazon believes in providing lots of data, making actions readily available, connecting users with each other, and providing several paths to more products.