Amazon Kindle Administration – Design Fail

I am obviously on a theme or maybe it is simply I have a little bit of time to reflect this week but have you noticed how appalling the Amazon UX is for managing the content in your library or your kindle itself.  What is surprising about it  is simply managing files has been around for a very long time and there are a wide range of open source tools and libraries for software developers wanting something off the shelf to help manage high volumes of files.

So lets look at what is wrong and then lets ask ourselves why its wrong, the answer may be a mixture of things

Whats wrong?

  • No layout view options only a filter by type – simply bonkers, there are solutions out there for panel, list and preview scroll of files, they could show the cover or provide a preview easily.
  • No sort options –  you know basic stuff by date, by A to Z, by size
  • You simply cannot select multiple files and mass delete them or move them to a folder, it takes about five actions to select one and move it.  There is no checkbox next to each item, no select all, no deselect all
  • The control buttons are far on the right a long way from the title and the listing is so narrow its hard to see if you are on the right item
  • If you do want to delete a file you need to make multiple clicks to expose the feature and when you do you are made to wait for an inordinate amount of time before you see a change in your screen, it says successfully deleted but it is still there and then suddenly a clunky screen refresh and its gone, but there is about 8 seconds where you think you may have deleted the wrong thing. Come on Amazon.  It is also a whole screen refresh and then you are back at the top of the page so you need scroll back down to check it is gone!!
  • No easy way of creating organisation in your vast collection of books and files, the organisation you create on your kind is not reflected in the web front end because I guess they did not think of having multiple views based on the devices organisation not just the library

Why is it so wrong?

I can only speculate as the problems seem easy to fix so it probably comes down to one of the following.  Rather surprising given the total control over the environment have, the significant profit that operating Kindle ecosystem provides to them, you would have thought a small amount of reinvestment would pay off through improved user experience and positive feedback.

  • Developer Incompetence – The people running the platform development team for the web management interface within the amazon account and in the kindle itself simply do not get UX or have little or no understanding of what good design is or what is freely available out there as open source libraries to ease development of such features
  • Product Management failure – Assuming the developers do know what they are doing but are being stopped by the product management team then it may be simply that they are being driven by the wrong set of motives or incentives that do not include customer experience. Perhaps they feel they are in control of a near monoply and being tasked with driving every ounce of profit.  It may be they are not encouraged to seek feedback, it certainly is hard to explain your concerns or provide feedback and they certainly do not seem to care or welcome feedback
  • Roadmap plans – Perhaps they don’t plan to offer document storage for non Kindle format documents is on the wane and they want to discourage people from using this feature – one of its best features to be frank, sending documents to your Kindle to have them converted on the fly to Kindle format to be read is a joy.  Perhaps the current crop of Kindles are being end of lifed so we have to buy a new one with a a better user interface but that does not change the back end.

Whatever it is the underlying message  I am getting is Amazon may not care about their customers or their concerns, they are in fact not customers but simply numbers average revenue per month type measures and all they want is for us to spend more, not be happier and more loyal, they make it easy for us to find, order and pay for things but they do nothing to help us understand our lives or make use of the vast history of purchase and behaviour data ourselves.  They are part of the Data Feudalism brigade bent on knowing as much as they can whilst doing the least they can to help us understand or organise our lives beyond turning up at their shop counter and buying things we ease but after sales forget it!!!

I presume Amazon have an acquisition team, a revenue growth team, but I suspect the retention team is small because when people become addicted you do not have to care about how they feel they just keep spending and you can degrade them in the process as much as you like.  So lets think  about Amazon getting a little bit of real corporate social responsibility going, not just donating money to some worthy cause but actually ploughing some back into how they treat their customers post purchase across their life stages and events and help them become a little bit more empowered through better tools to manage and understand their life and behaviours and administer their information more easily.  This means Convenient tools that deliver simple to use administration and analysis functionality and control over how their information is used.

To do both you need to care and you need good design, Amazon please wake up and start delivering the whole service.

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