Browsing Usability: Overstock Blows Amazon Away

Linda Bustos

It excites me to know end to praise a usability innovation from an online retailer that is NOT Amazon. Hooray!

I noticed a filtered navigation design on Overstock that is really interesting. It combines search with filtered navigation - here's what I mean:

Say you're checking out the "Rings" category. You're presented with a number of ways to narrow your results: Category, Metal, Size, Price and Stone.

But if you're looking for say, a cocktail ring - this could include a variety of gemstones and metals, could be at any number of price points and would depend on what size you are looking for. Rather than looking at ALL items in the "Rings" category, you can hone in on just the cocktail rings by searching for "cocktail."

Now you can see how many cocktail rings belong to each Category, Metal, Size, Price and Stone option and you can start refining your search further. I want to see all the available cocktail rings in size 5:

Amazon doesn't offer this type of search function. I would have to search for "cocktail rings" from the main search first, then narrow from there. But, I can't narrow by size. So the Overstock experience is far superior. Take that, Amazon!

Plus, Overstock's design is also much better. The way Amazon displays filter options is with left-hand menus which requires a lot of scrolling, requires top-down, rather than left-right reading and is harder for the eye to scan. With a compact, above-the-thumbnails design, Overstock's design is easier on the brain. You can absorb more information with less eye and finger movement. I don't have eye-tracking studies to prove it, but I believe there is enough classic usability research out there that would support this.

Even the way product results are displayed is more effective. Overstock shows a Free Shipping offer, the % discount as well as reduced price in red, and the average customer review rating. Amazon does not:

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Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.