There can be few web sites that are as well-known as Amazon; it is the go-to online store for everything from toilet paper to PCs. This is not surprising when you consider the sheer range of goods you can buy coupled with the range of merchants competing for customers and keeping prices down.
There are mobile apps available for iOS and Android, so it makes sense that a dedicated app should also be released for Windows. Amazon for Windows 8 brings the world of online shopping to your desktop in a dedicated app. We take a closer look.
This is a piece of software that looks every bit a Windows 8 app. The tabular look of an online store translates extremely well into the modern (*cough* Metro *cough*) interface. The switch to scrolling through the app’s interface horizontally compared to the vertical style of the web site is initial disconcerting, but it soon becomes second nature.
Browse the Aisles
When you’re ready to start shopping, you can approach it in exactly the same way as using the regular web site. Initially, you’ll be presented with a list of highlighted products but if you sign into your Amazon account you can benefit from a more personalized shopping experience.
Scroll to the right and you can also see which products are proving popular with other Amazon users, but you’re going to find that searching is the way ahead.
Make use of the search bar at the top of the screen and you can home in on exactly what you’re looking for – although it’s worth noting that there is no browsing history saved so you’ll need to type out searches in full every time you want to perform them.
Matching products are listed in a clear, tiled view, and a drop down menu enables you to fine-tune results so that only products from one particular category are shown.
Click an individual item and product details – including seller information, postage options and reviews – are loaded in a secondary window.
From this window you can read through the item description, add it to your wish list, share it through various services or add it to your basket to purchase. The information available here is not a complete replica of what’s available at the Amazon web site, and you may find that you have to click through and switch to the site to find out everything you need to know.
As is often the case with Windows 8 apps, options are rather thin on the ground here. In fact, the limited number of options is taken to the extreme – there is only one setting that you can change. It is however, one that is quite useful.
Just because you are located in one particular country, it does not mean that you are limited to shopping within those borders. Amazon is a global service and has many region specific web sites. If you’d prefer to shop in the Chinese, German or Spanish store – there are nine to choose from in total – switching countries is very simple.
Limitations & Issues
The Amazon app is great if you know what you are looking for. Search for a product, add it to your shopping card and make a purchase – quick and easy. But it is a more limited experience than browsing the web site. The fact that there are a limited amount of space used to display information means that you’re slightly restricted in what you can find out about any given product.
Idle browsing is virtually out of the question. Perusing a category of product requires you to perform a search first and then refine the results by category; this makes things much more specific, which in some respects is useful, but it reduces the possibility of being distracted by something you had not thought of.
On all too many occasions, you will find that you are directed to the Amazon web site if you want to read detailed information about something you’re looking at, and the decision to cram product information into a small popup window rather than making use of the entire screen is something of a strange one. You’re also directed out of the app if you want to make any changes to your account and this can create a rather disjointed overall experience.
Amazon’s Windows 8 app is good, but it’s not great. In some respects it feels as though it was made just for the sake of having an app. That’s not to say that it is a waste of time, just that more thought and effort could have been put into it.
If you’re the sort of person who knows what they want and use Amazon to jump straight to particular products, then the app will serve you perfectly. If you like to read detailed descriptions in addition to customer reviews before committing yourself to a purchase, you’re going to find that the app pushes you to the website, so you may as well have started there.
We’ve (rightly) come to expect more from Amazon, and it would be good to see customer feedback taken on board for future releases. This could be great, but it’s currently a little sub-standard.