The Page I Made… Except for the Tabs It’s almost a sure thing that I will never buy anything from’s ‘Apparel & Accessories,’ ‘Magazine Subscriptions,’ ‘Home & Garden,’ or even ‘Camera & Photo’ stores, and yet, in random order, they show up repeatedly in the navigation each time I return to the site. It’s a wonder to me that Amazon, perhaps the most highly personalized experience on the Web (as in architecturally responsive to user profiles), doesn’t allow me to configure the tabs that appear at the top of my screen.

Below: How about a pair of clogs with your copy of Noam Chomsky’s “Power and Terror”?

What I want to see is: ‘Books,’ ‘Music,’ ‘DVD’ and ‘Electronics’… plus a control that says ‘Configure Tabs.’ This feature has practically been built already in the form of ‘Edit Favorites,’ but it’s obscured by the overabundance of navigation saturating the Web site. I can’t imagine it would take much engineering to stitch it together with whatever mechanism is currently controlling the display of navigational tabs at the top, but I can imagine the company wants to reserve the right to constantly remind me that I can buy a garden hoe along with a copy of “Living History.” Tabs

I don’t complain about this simply because I’m looking for a better shopping experience, but because Amazon’s tabs are so influential to the general practice of Web design. Since the early days of e-commerce, the Amazon tab structure has been the gold standard in developing tabular navigation paradigms, functioning as a baseline model for probably thousands of Web sites. Of course, each derivation of the tabs tries to inject a little extra style or a unique twist in the paradigm, but in the end, they’re all still Amazon’s tabs at heart. Injecting a little user-friendly smarts into the tabs would go a long way towards propagating that practice across other Web sites.



  1. A good observation. I don’t really use Amazon much. I’ve ordered pnly one thing there over the years. However, tabs have become a well-used navgation device in web design and they work well.

    I agree that having a cutomize tab display function would be a good addition indeed. Unless of course they know this and want to promote all their other departments as well.

    I remember Kottke posting screenshots (this was somewhat of a meme at the time) of Word and Amazon having a bazillion tabs. Those were funny.

  2. One thing that would make it better from a user’s perspective while still allowing Amazon some editorial control (which is the reason why the random tabs appear — they want you to know about those categories so you might buy something from them) would be for the sections that you browse or buy from to percolate to the left side of the tab bar. Amazon could have two or three tabs on the right to promote new or different categories. Everybody could win.

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