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Amazon.com: To tab or not to tab? Monday, May 29, 2006

Posted by VoeD in Design, Thoughts.

A lot of publicity has gone over Amazon.com's new Ajax-enabled Book Reader. Ajaxian's article is here and I suppose you can find lots of similar coverage on the new feature in other Ajax sites as well as the normal bunch who write about these stuff: Slashdot, Techcrunch, etc. Although, probably not much lime light was shed when the British Library (at least I don't remember so) had a Macromedia Shockwave book reader, called and trademarked Turning the pages, of various original works like from Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis Caroll, Jane Austen, etc (some are even hand written). And for that matter, not many people has heard of Project Gutenburg.

But this post is about Amazon, and not the rest (in keeping things related to my project hehe). I first noticed this in Steve Krug's book (which is still burried amongst the many boxes in my room): Amazon was one of the best examples for using tabs to realize web site navigation. When I say best example, I meant it in the same way Steve Krug did, Amazon's tabs was a success and they maintained a high level of usability in those tabs to help users navigate through their website.

But over the years, (the picture above was neither most recent nor quite recent) their business expanded and with that so did their website:

There is even one with three rows of tabs (I saw an image of such in Steve Krug's book – I wish I can just take a photo of that and paste it here haha) and silly as it is (and it was actually taken down after a few weeks) its still tabs and still usable. And a few (weeks? months? a year?) ago it was still quite managable I might say… (Notice the "See more stores" link)

But just take a look at the "tabbed" website now (Notice the "See all XX product categories" link):

I traced the change back to this post in Bigfatsite.com (in 2005 or so). I won't be surprised if Amazon gets rid of the tabs sometime soon? Or hey.. I dont actually have an Amazon account. So probably they customize the tabs according to customer. But not everyone goes to Amazon to shop I suppose (I go there to check what a book looks like and what people think about it). Then again, the change was indeed in 2005 and its been a year since then. I guess its a step to cure the so-called tab cancer. I wonder why I never noticed the change in their tabs design till now. Hmmm…



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