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The www.amazon.com web site was originally launched as an online bookseller. Amazon grew to become what they describe as the "largest bookseller on earth" because the site expanded to include the sale of used books and books that were sold by third party resellers through the Amazon web site. The Amazon web site has now expanded to include nearly every type of merchandise available through small, third party retailers that also have their own online presence, large distributors that use Amazon.com as their primary online presence and sales venue, and large retailers such as Toys R Us that have a significant online presence and also sell products through Amazon.com to increase their business and web presence. In addition, the Amazon.com web site sells hardware and software under the Amazon.com brand name in the form of the Kindle product line (which is a digital book reader). Amazon.com also provides online publishers with the tools necessary to publish their digital books using the Kindle format and to sell the books on Amazon.com as part of the online book selection sold for Kindle devices. Amazon also sells hosting space and includes web tools for this purpose. So essentially, the Amazon.com web site is an online brokerage where nearly any product can be bought or sold and Amazon.com profits by collecting a percentage of each sale in exchange for their online brokerage service.
Whois Search Results for Amazon.com
NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
Domain Name Servers in Order
Legal Dept, P.O. Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108-1226
Administrative Contact, Technical Contact
Amazon.com, Inc. [email protected]
PO BOX 81226
SEATTLE, WA 98108-1300
+1 206 266 4064 fax: +1 206 266 7010
Amazon.com Revenue Model
The Amazon.com web site operates as an online retailer and in the beginning that is exactly the revenue model it used. However, as the site grew the revenue model changed. Amazon.com discovered that using a sales revenue model where Amazon.com works with other online retailers to sell products and collects a portion of each sale as revenue could generate even more revenue. In addition, Amazon also sells ad space for featured products to online retailers that promote goods sold on the site by listing them (in some cases with pictures as well as descriptions) when an online customer searches for or views a similar item on the Amazon.com web site. So currently Amazon.com uses both an online retailer revenue model (for selling Kindle and other products such as books), and also a sales revenue model (the primary portion of the site's revenue) by essentially broking retail sales through the Amazon.com web site, Kotelnikov, (2012).
Amazon.com has demonstrated the formation of many strategic alliances that help to bolster sales and business for both Amazon and the company with which they have formed the strategic alliance. One of the most obvious strategic alliances that become most visible during the Christmas season is the alliance they have formed with the Toys R Us giant toy retail outlet. When one searches to purchase toys online through Toys R Us, the online searches almost always point to a web page on Amazon.com that bears the Toys R Us logo. By doing this Amazon.com increases sales by gaining a percentage of every online Toys R Us sale and Toys R Us gains the advantage of being able to sell their products even to online customers looking to purchase from another online retailer by displaying a preferred advertisement that includes similar product on Amazon.com web site pages. In addition, Toys R Us lets Amazon manage the online deliveries because they are set up to do it better, PRNewswire, (2012). Another strategic alliance that is similar is the Footlocker strategic alliance that is formed so that Footlocker product is now the preferred or featured brand for the Apparel and Accessories store on Amazon.com. By doing this Footlocker gains more advertising exposure and Amazon.com gains a portion of the revenue for each online Footlocker sale, Rosen, (2001).
Web Standards Checklist for Amazon.com
Site name: _amazon.com________________
Site address: _www.amazon.com__________
Quality of code
The Amazon.com web site displays the full and correct Doctype at the very top of each web page per standards. Below is a sample of the Doctype line captured from the main or home web page on the Amazon.com web site:
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
The Amazon.com web site declares the correct character sets used on the web site so that all characters are rendered correctly and readable by web browsers.
Valid Use of (X)HTML:
The Amazon.com site uses valid HTML however invalid HTML implementation was also found on the web pages. There was no visible evidence of invalid use of the HTML standards when viewing the web pages. However, upon inspection of the source code the following errors could be detected:
General entity X not defined and no default entity
Value of attribute Y cannot be X; must be one of %3
Required attribute X not specified
Character data is not allowed here
Document type does not allow element X here
There is no attribute X
ID X already defined
Cannot generate system identifier for general entity X
Element X undefined
Document type does not allow element X here; missing one of Y start-tag
Reference to entity X for which no system identifier could be generated
NET-enabling start-tag requires SHORTTAG YES
Each of the above errors were found using the W3C (X)HTML Markup Validation Service which also provided detailed listings of the exact lines in which each error was located, W3C, (2012).
Valid Use of CSS:
Based upon the W3C CSS Validation Service, there were 45 CSS errors detected in the code on Amazon.com. The primary errors were the result of properties either not entered or improperly coded, values coded improperly (meaning the incorrect value or type was entered), and parsing errors such as invalid strings, W3C, (2012).
Minimal CSS hacks:
Also, based upon the information above, there are a number of areas where CSS is implemented improperly so that 445 warnings were displayed. These issues did not violate the standards however, the code was still improperly implemented and could cause issues with some browsers, W3C, (2012).
No Unnecessary Classes or IDs:
It appears that the Amazon.com side does contain a number of unnecessary IDs in that there are IDs that have been defined multiple times, W3C, (2012).
Based upon the HTML standards, visual inspection reveals that the Amazon.com web site uses little valid code structure, rarely indenting or commenting the code used on the web site.
Site Broken Links:
Using the W3C link checker it was found that there are a large number of broken links on the web site, which includes links that are simply not implemented properly, W3C (2012).
Speed and Page Size:
Separation Between Content and Presentation
Decorative images in CSS:
Based upon the visible source code displayed in the W3C CSS Validation Service, and the CSS displayed in the Chrome Developer Tools, it appears that the Amazon.com site does separate content and presentation such that decorative images in CSS are separate from the rest of the CSS code, W3C, (2012).
CSS for All Presentational Aspects:
Fortunately, the Amazon.com web site does use CSS for all presentation aspects that were found rather than using the HTML font properties (as far as could be detected). Below is an example of the presentation code for fonts in the web pages at Amazon.com:
Accessibility for Users
Site Uses "alt" Attributes for Images:
Yes, the Amazon.com web site uses the "alt" attribute for images as can be seen from the code captured and displayed in the image below:
Site Uses Relative Units for Text Size:
The Amazon.com web site also does a good job using relative units for text sizes by implementing pixel sizes rather than a static size, which may not always render correctly. For example, below is a picture of Amazon.com code displaying the pixel size implementation:
Site Layout is Stable if Font Size Increases:
Testing the Amazon.com web site it was found that as the font size does increase (when adjusted to do so in a web browser), the web site layout continues to maintain the same structure as when first connecting to the web site. Both the CTRL and + and CTRL and - hot key methods were used to test the relative font sizes and layout and found that as the web page objects and fonts increased in size, the adjustable side bars would increase or decrease in size to accommodate the size of the web page with no variance in the layout of the web page itself.
Site Uses Visible Skip Menus:
Yes, from what is displayed on the Amazon.com web pages that were viewed, the site appears not to provide visible skip menus or other such features that enhance usability.
Site Uses Accessible Forms:
The Amazon.com web site also does not implement the use of forms in a way that make them more accessible to those with impairments. For example, in testing to see whether or not groups are used, it was found that there are no "optgroup" tags in the web site pages that were tested. In addition, no "accesskey" tags and only three "tabindex" tags were found. Hence, the Amazon.com site is very unfriendly to those that cannot use a pointing device, W3C, (2012).
Site Uses Accessible Tables:
Amazon.com does support extensive use of tags such as TD and TH that help make tables more accessible. In fact, on one page alone over 180 instances of such tags were found.
Site has Sufficient Colour Brightness/contrasts:
The color and brightness contrasts on the Amazon.com web pages appear to be significant when viewing them only because the background is always white and the foreground, such as fonts and images, are always of a deep or darker color. However, Amazon.com does not make use of priority settings for contrast.
Site Does Not Use Colour Alone for Critical Information:
Amazon.com makes use of technique that require color for critical information. So if there is no color for certain types of critical information on the Amazon.com web pages, then the information would be invisible and certainly a usability issue for any visitor to the site.
Site uses delayed responsiveness for drop down menus:
Amazon.com does not implement delayed responsiveness for drop down menus. In all tests using different web browsers it was found that the drop down boxes drop or appear very fast and someone with impaired motor skills may have trouble making a selection before the drop down menu disappears.
Site uses descriptive links:
Amazon.com does an excellent job of using descriptive links in general. However, some of the links are more contextual in that the link itself does not always spell out the purpose, which could be an issue for those that are visually impaired.
Accessibility for Devices
Amazon.com has a large number of issues with almost every web browser regardless of version or edition. Main issues center around the ability to open and close web browser windows (mainly in Windows Internet Explorer) and also to run CSS correctly. Below is a screen capture of the issues found with Amazon.com using the W3C Validation Service:
Site works acceptably across target browsers:
If the primary or target web browsers for Amazon.com happen to be mobile in nature, such as for the Android and/or Blackberry devices, the site could be considered very compatible as seen in exhibit 6. In fact, since the web site has proven to be highly compatible with these mobile web browsers, it may be that this is the reason why the web site is less compatible with conventional web browsers such as Internet Explorer or Safari. This does, however, pose a major issue for Amazon.com because a large portion of mobile web browsers are Safari on iPhones and iPods and iPads so for those mobile devices the web site will still have many of the same compatibility issues found with PC and Mac based web browsers, W3C, (2012).
Content is accessible without CSS:
Although content is accessible with CSS, a large portion of the content will not render correctly if CSS cannot be run. So for nearly all web browsers with the exception of Android, Blackberry and Internet Explorer 7, there is CSS content that will not be visible due to compatibility issues, W3C, (2012).
Content is accessible without images:
The Amazon.com web site makes extensive use of images to display content. While this makes for a pleasing experience when the web site is being viewed, it also means that if using a web browser such as the text based Lynx, some content will be missing, W3C, (2012).
Content is meaningful in text browsers:
Because much of the Amazon.com content is displayed using images, a major portion of the web content is not visible or compatible with text based web browsers such as Lynx.
Content is accessible when printed:
The Amazon.com web site displays all content without having to make changes when the content on a web page is printed.
Content is accessible on Hand Held devices:
Interestingly, the Amazon.com web site is surprisingly compatible with a group of hand held devices that run the Android and Blackberry operating systems. However, if the device is running the Mac IOS such as iPhone or iPod Touch, since these devices use the Safari web browser it is more than likely that there will be issues viewing content with these Apple devices, W3C, (2012).
Site has detailed metadata:
Amazon.com does include detailed metadata within the web pages that is used for the effects and other active information displayed on the web pages, W3C, (2012).
Site works well in different window sizes:
The Amazon.com site also seems to work quite well with different size windows. However, since the web site has major compatibility issues with most computer based web browsers (meaning web browsers that are not designed for hand held devices such as Blackberry or Android), there will be issues with some of the more popular web browsers such as Internet Explorer 6.0.
Site has clear visual hierarchy:
Amazon.com does have a visual hierarchy on the web site and on each web page. However, the hierarchy appears to be based mostly upon the pricing for advertising rather than for the user. So if the user is searching for a particular type of merchandise, the Amazon.com search engine will find the merchandise however, it will feature a preferred advertiser's related merchandise in larger pictures or in a highly visible location rather than the merchandise for which the user was searching. For example, when viewing the web page for an item, the user will always have to scroll down past the area where preferred vendor merchandise is displayed in order to view the details of the merchandise that is of interest to the user and for which the user was searching.
Headings clearly indicate the structure of the document:
Headings on the web pages are very clear so that the user can easily understand the structure of each web page. However, since many of the headings are rendered using color and are not visible when color is not visible, the headings structure is not always effective.
Navigation is easy to understand:
Navigation of the Amazon.com web site is relatively easy to understand and consistent from one web page to another. There is always a navigation bar near the left side, right side or top of the page with similar content that the user can access to find what they need.
Navigation is consistent throughout site:
As mentioned earlier, the web pages are very predictable and consistent. Each web page for displaying merchandise is structured in the same way with little or no variance between web pages. So even though their may be issues rendering certain content within some web browsers, the content location and menus are always predictable, making navigation on the site quite simple to follow.
Site uses underlined links:
Amazon.com uses a combination of underlined links and links that are not underlined. The links that are not underlined require the user to "mouse over" the link and experiment to determine whether or not the text or image is actually a link. From this standpoint a relatively inexperienced user may have trouble navigating the site unless they understand that a series of grouped text items on a bar or pictures displayed in the same way may actually be a link to a web page that they may be interested in viewing.
Site uses consistent and appropriate language:
Amazon.com used very consistent and easy to understand language. The language is always appropriate for the items displayed however in some cases the items do not always include as much detail as the user might need to make a purchasing decision. This may be more of an issue with a vendor or manufacturer than the fault of the web site however.
Site has easy to find sitemap and contact page:
Amazon.com does not appear to have a site map that users can use to find what they are looking for on the web site. This may be because of the enormous size of the web site and large number of pages however, if they were to include a site map in a method similar to ebay by using drop down boxes, it would greatly enhance navigation. The site contact page can be found after clicking the small Help link near the top of any of the web site pages, then clicking the Contact Us button. It is not very intuitive to find the Contact Us web page however it did only take two clicks to find it.
Site has a search tool:
Amazon.com has a search bar that is displayed at the top of each web page. The search tool is very easy to locate and works quite well in finding the merchandise one may be searching for, and usually the desired items can be located on the first attempt to search.
Site has link to the home page on every page:
Amazon.com does support a link on every web page that leads to the Amazon.com home page. However, the link to the home page, like many web sites, is the logo for the web site. So to display the home page the user has to mouse over the Amazon.com logo in the upper left corner to discover that the logo is also a link and then click on the link to discover that it is a link to the home page for the site. Because so many other web sites also use this same method, it is probably usable for those that are experienced Internet surfers, however for those that are new to the Internet and online shopping, this implementation could make finding the site home page a difficult task.
Site has clearly defined visited links:
Amazon.com does not always use differentiators, such as a change in color, to show the user which web pages that they have already visited on the site. This is especially true for links that are buttons, icons or pictures. The web site does support this feature, but only for underlined links and generally only for merchandise links.
Site has a meaningful 404 error page:
The Amazon.com web site management feature leaves something to be desired. There are many broken links on the web site however, as the W3C Validation Service discovered, many of these links are not properly supported by a 404 page error, so the result when clicking on these links is somewhat unpredictable and may depend upon the web browser in use by the user.
Site has friendly URLs
The Amazon.com URLs all appear to have characters in them such as ampersands and question marks that search engines avoid. This may be the reason why many of the Amazon web pages do not appear in Google searches even when they might contain the content for which the user is searching.
Site allows URLs to work without "www":
When typing in a web page for the Amazon.com web site, a user can type in the web page URL without the "www" and still connect to the web page. So it appears that Amazon.com has ensured that the DNS name resolution works both with and without the "www" portion of the URLs.
Site has a favicon:
Amazon.com does have a favicon that appears either in the tab of a web browser window (as is the case with Chrome) or in the address bar to the far left in the web browser (such as when using Internet Explorer or Firefox). The favicon is easily recognizable as an Amazon favicon because it displays the black and orange Amazon colors with the lower case "a" used at the beginning of the Amazon trademark.
The Amazon.com web site consists of over 240 million web pages that have each been indexed by the Google search engine. The fact that there is such a large number of web pages means that it is more likely that Amazon web pages will appear at the top of Google searches. Another aspect of Amazon and the way the site markets is that each pages displays a plethora of content. The pages are not clean however nearly anything that a user clicks will lead to another web page where there is merchandise that may be of interested to the user. The Amazon.com web site also aims to generate repeat customers. Amazon does this through the use of "cookies," account settings and other mechanisms that customize the user experience and always display on each web page items that are similar to past purchases, related to past purchases or searches, or recently of interest such as the last few pages viewed by the user.
For Amazon.com, a web site that markets nearly all merchandise on the planet, there is no one single particular market segment into which the web site can fit. Instead, Amazon.com segments the users by gathering and holding onto user information and then matching the users up to a particular market segment and displaying merchandise and advertisements of interest to that market segment to each user. So Amazon uses custom, personalized web pages that target each customer's market segment.
Amazon.com uses a wide network of affiliate web sites to reach new customers as well as to bring back repeat customers. Nearly every book link displayed on the Internet now leads back to the Amazon.com web site. So whenever an Internet user is searching for information and finds that the information is contained in a book, if they click on a link to purchase the book, they are immediately redirected to the Amazon.com web site where the book is displayed for purchase along with a list of items that others within their market segment or associated with that book in the particular market segment searched and/or purchased.
Amazon.com appears to handle logistics through a supply chain that consists of a combination of drop shipping products directly from manufacturers, and the use of distribution centers. Evidence of this can be seen in the quantity available counts for merchandise rather than just an in stock or out of stock display on a merchandise page. Amazon also has the ability to tell the user when the merchandise is expected back in stock which is another indication that Amazon has control over their supply chain.
Amazon.com supports payment systems such as credit cards, ATM cards, and Paypal and will even accept checking numbers under specific security conditions. So Amazon aims to maximize the number of ways a customer can purchase merchandise, increasing the likelihood of each potential sale.
The Amazon.com web site displays their use of security openly, including the use of SSL/TLS encryption for purchase pages where user financial information such as credit cards and other private information is entered. They also include a "Secure Server" button that customers must click to make a purchase so that the customer is made aware that security measures have been taken to protect the customer's private information. Amazon.com also includes an agreement mechanism, which the customer must click before finalizing a purchase. The agreement is designed to inform the customer about security measures to keep information safe, along with the terms of the purchase.
The Amazon.com web site displays information such as "Best Sellers" and merchandise with the "highest rating" and other such information regarding the overall purchases on the web site as it relates to each product segment and customer segment. Amazon.com also provides the customer with the ability to select and filter the product displayed by selecting an analytic parameter such as Best Seller as the means to sort a particular search.
Amazon.com is an impressive web site with a vast array of marketing strategies all rolled into a single web site. Many lessons about online marketing can be learned by visiting the web site, such as customer/consumer segmentation by market space, the wise use of analytics, and the placement of items on each web page. Amazon has perfected marketing and logistics for online merchandise sales so much so that big retailers such as Toys R Us trust their online business and presence to Amazon. However, Amazon web page code leaves much to be desired. Compatibility with a wider range of browsers would definitely help increase their sales as would improving accessibility features. It was surprising to find that such a successful online company as Amazon still has opportunity for improvement in web page structure and coding practices. Through the use of compatibility testing and code rewrites to fix the issues found, Amazon may find an increase in sales simply by enabling more customers to view their web pages.