Reworking amazon's browsing history

passion project - case study

Duration: July 2021 - August 2021 (3 weeks)
Role: Solo researcher

Research Methods:
- Cognitive Walkthrough
- Desirability Testing
- Literature Review

If you’ve ever used Amazon’s Browsing History functionality, you may have stumbled a bit because it didn’t exactly fit your shopping workflow. But most importantly, you probably wondered how to get to that thing you really wanted three weeks ago.

Read my publication on Medium

research plan

how might we become better shoppers, and not better browsers?

Key Objectives:
1. Understand potential issues with Browsing History
2. Create recommendations using qualitative methods

project timeline / process map

REsearch method justification

Cognitive Walkthrough:
Objectively determine points of interest and high priority targets. Combing through tens of thousands of reviews on App Marketplaces confirmed that a very small percentage of users voiced concerns about Amazon's Browsing History.

Desirability Testing:

Understand users' gut reaction with extremely low cost to see aesthetic design issues (if any).

Literature Review:
After confirming no large and pressing issues, using literature reviews can help point out areas of improvement that aren't critical but can improve the overall user experience.

Research session

cognitive walkthrough

I recall a previously browsed item from any time frame from Amazon. It is hard for me to remember exactly what an item was called, but I searched through Amazon's typical shopping and browsing experience to no avail.

After stumbling on Browsing History, I navigate to the exact item I found weeks ago, but it took me a lot of scrolling and searching.

The follow tasks are chosen based on the available functionality from Browsing History feature:

Core Tasks:
1. Add any desired item from Browsing History to a Wish List.
2. Add a recommended item from Browsing History to Cart.

Evaluative Questions:
1. Will the user achieve the right outcome?
2. Will the user notice that the correct action is available to them?
3. Is the link between control and action present?
4. Will the user see progress is being made towards their goal?

Informal Desirability testing

A sample of five participants, all shop online via Amazon, responded after quick exposure to screenshots of Amazon's Browsing History at various points.

A deck of adjectives and qualitative attributes were provided after each feature, which participants assigned 2-3 words to. The word deck is condensed and adapted from Microsoft's reaction cards.

The deck included: 




Browsing History carousel
, from the top nav bar:
Attractive, Comfortable, Easy, Intuitive, Ordinary, Slow

Accessing Browsing History
, from the Accounts & Lists:
Boring, Clean, Essential, Expected, Ordinary, Standard

Main Browsing History:
Busy, Consistent, Desirable, Easy, Efficient, Engaging, Expected, Familiar, Inconsistent, Intuitive, Overwhelming, Relevant, Slow


literature review

Literature helped informed how we might be able to improve products that don't have flow breaking issues. Using notes and observations from my research methods, in conjunction with several texts pointed me to understand Jakob's Law (The phenomenon that users will expect similar outputs and behaviors from applications the more the engage with products. Ex: users who use history (order history, or browsing history, etc.) will expect similar layouts and functionality as other companies' and services' version of history), as well as minimizing repeated elements such as call to actions, or sub menu items.


1. User expectations are met and cognitive walkthrough shows no breaking issues with flow. Most comments were regarding layout and aesthetics.

2. Users experienced minor inconsistencies between the typical Amazon shopping experience and the Browsing History experience.


example mockup / prototype:

Change Log:

  • Grid to List layout, increase row height and size
  • Include Timeline (as implemented in carousel version of Browsing History)
  • Filter sidebar (by dates, by other options)
  • Add Browsing History to search functionality

familiarity & jakob's law

Based on (insert finding number here), users can benefit from altering the grid layout to a list with larger images, and one-click navigation back to a particular browsed item.

Allowing for filters, and search functionality can empower users abilities within Browsing History.

discoverability & Minimalism

Reducing variation between viewport sizes, as well as reducing visual noise per item would improve usability.

Users also were not immediately sure how to get to browsing history, and the experience isn't exactly the same for every user.

reflection & Lessons

System integration

The heaviest weight on my mind is how feasible my recommendations are: I am unable to determine how well design changes can be integrated without the visibility to system architecture of Amazon.

testing in a vacuum

It is easy for me to confirm the success of my isolated research and prototyping implementations; however, these tests may not encapsulate the entire workflow of an online shopper. Taking an example from eBay's A/B testing for display density: confirmation on smaller scale studies may not translate to real environments.

references & citations

[1] Garrity, Steven, et al. “Design with Difficult Data.” A List Apart, 16 Apr. 2019,

[2] “Brave New World of Visual Browsing.” UXmatters, 3 Aug. 2009,

[3] Woods, D. Ben. “Book Review: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.” UXmatters, 21 June 2021,

[4] Nudelman, Greg. Designing Search: UX Strategies for Ecommerce Success. Wiley Pub., 2011.

[5] Katz, Adi. “AESTHETICS, USEFULNESS AND PERFORMANCE IN USERSEARCH — ENGINE INTERACTION.” Journal of Applied Quantitative Methods, vol. 5, no. 3, 2010.

[6] Yablonski, Jon. “Jakob’s Law.” Laws of UX,