Amazon’s website interfaces, affordances and constrains

This weeks readings were based on the terms of affordances, constrains, interfaces and design interactions. As Murray points out in his article, digital artifacts pervade our lives, and the design decisions that shape them affect the way we think, act, understand the world, and communicate with one another.

We always find new ways of designing new medium, that’s part of our human nature. But it is critical to have a good design process, keeping in mind that it should serve a function and have a purpose.

Amazon’s website now and then

Let’s take a look at Amazon’s website since its first launch and compare it with today’s website.

Amazon’s 1994 homepage

Today’s website

Constrains, Interface, Affordances

As we can see, a lot has changed. There were a lot of constrains with the old website. First, the web page was not designed to be accessed from a phone, so it was not responsive to different screen sizes. There is the logical constrain of scrolling down. The design of the interface was not very interactive. So you see a lot of text and it constrains the customer to follow a linear path, with not much interaction.

Today’s website is much more interactive, with more options and functions. The simple website has evolved drastically. It has changed the way that people shop, from the convenience of their homes. You can shop from books, to electronic, to clothes, jewelry, shoes, food, home supplies and so much more. But even the most well-designed website can have constrains and that’s just the way it is.

The most obvious constrain is that you have to have power and be connected to the internet in order to shop online. The other constrain is that you have to have a valid credit/debit card to make the payment. And then create a profile with the user’s personal information .

I do like the interface. It is intuitive to me, in the sense of what we see and what can we operate. The search bar is the first step to look at an item that you want to purchase. Of course that the constrain with the experience is that you cannot physically look at the object, but the reviews that clients leave usually give you an idea about the object that you’re looking for. And giving an option to rate the product and leave a review also is meant to make your experience more enjoyable.

Let’s take a look at the digital affordances of this website. The use of the labels (different departments)  help the customer to correctly find a product. There is the symbol of the shopping cart to give the idea that you put the items you buy in the cart, so it’s kinda mimicking the actual experience. Now the website is responsive and you can access it on your phone as well.

I think the purpose of the amazon’s website has changed a lot since it first started. It is so convenient to “go shopping” from the comfort of your home, saving you time and in most cases also money. But is it changing the experience and the term of shopping. It makes you think that all these conveniences, are making us lazy in a way, that we don’t even want to go shopping anymore because we can do it online. And about the design process, it will not be that long before the website incorporates audio, and you could just active the speaker and tell it to search a product for you, you won’t even have to write it.


Murray, Janet  Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.

Kaptelinin, Victor. “Affordances.” The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed., 2013.

Norman, A. Donald, “Affordance, Conventions, and Design.” Interactions 6, no. 3 (May 1999): 38-43.

Quito, Anne Amazon’s 1994 homepage. Digital image. N.p. July 18, 2016. Web. <>.

Bryant, Miranda. Evening Standard, Amazon’s website. Digital Image. N.p. June 27, 2013. Web.<>.