What Would Amazon.com do?

When I give speeches, I always have a slide that says, "The most important design tip of the day." OK, what's this tip that's so wonderfu?. Simple. All it has is the question

"Would Amazon.com use that design element on its site?"

It's an important question because Amazon.com has probably spent more time and money researching what works and doesn't work on a web site than anyone. If you don't see a web design technique on Amazon.com, you probably should follow their guidelines and not use it on your site.

Some design techniques you probably won't see on Amazon.com: (all links open new windows)

Flash. Amazon doesn't use Flash — why should you? This page is like so many sites. I didn't bother to check to see if you have the Flash plug-in. I just load the Flash animation and trust you've got the latest version.

Splash pages. To give you the Classics comics version, splash pages get in the way of the visitor. Also notice that the page uses Mystery Meat Navigation — something else you don't see at Amazon.com.

DHTML. I like to call it DuHTML because...duh...it's too unreliable to use. Ask yourself this question...would Amazon sell more copies of my original book if they used DuHTML? I doubt it. Works in IE, but not Firefox and probably not Mozilla.

Java. Hmm. Would using Java sell more copies of my original book? Don't think so.

Animated GIFs. Hmm. I think this one might work. On the other hand, I don't think it will work for every book.