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Science & Technology Series: Expert Comment

Is Amazon complicating simplicity?

Lecturer in Information Interaction, Dr Stephann Makri, comments on the online retailer’s Dash button.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

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Online retailer Amazon now makes it possible for its UK Prime customers to buy household essentials such as washing capsules, shampoo and razor blades, at the touch of a button – the Amazon Dash button.

The device can be attached to appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators around the home. When the Wi-Fi enabled button is activated, it triggers a next-day delivery request.

Dr Stephann MakriDr Stephann Makri, a Lecturer in Information Interaction in the Department of Computer Science at City, University of London, says that while there is an advantage to being able to easily re-stock an item we are running low on, over-simplifying the everyday process of consumer purchasing may yield negative results in future:

“The strength of having a single push-button to order a product we've run out of is the simplicity of the process. And simplicity is an important design principle for creating satisfying User Experiences. But sometimes over-simplifying a process can make life more difficult in the long-run; how do users order multiple quantities of a product if subsequent button presses within 24 hours are assumed to be mistakes and ignored by Amazon?

“How can they easily keep track of the price of what they are buying before pressing the button? What if they want to use an alternative payment method or address? All of these things are likely to require manual intervention and therefore serve to complicate what is intended to be a simple process.”

Dr Makri says that creating a great user experience means striking an appropriate balance between ease-of-use and the availability of the useful functionality.

He adds:

“While Amazon Dash may push some users' buttons, it is unlikely to meet the needs of all Amazon shoppers”.

Definition
User experience design

User experience design (UX, UXD, UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.

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