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One of our most popular services at WebShare is to critique ecommerce sites, and one concept that comes up often is perceptual blindness.  This is the tendency to overlook something that is right in front of you because it’s not where you expect it to be.  Think of the internal site search box on a website.  If you moved this to the very bottom some customers may conclude the site is missing the ability to search because they are not used to looking for the search box at the bottom of the page.  This is why we say it’s often better to “Dare not to be different” in certain areas of website design.

I just recently experienced the perfect example that illustrates our point.  A friend of mine in Germany found out she is pregnant, and so I just had to send her two books right away.

I logged on to like I always do, entered her address and was about to pay when I saw that Amazon was estimating it would take over a month for her to receive the books, plus the shipping was more than the cost of one of the books!  At this point I was beginning to rethink buying these books from Amazon.  On a whim I decided to check out (the German version of Amazon).

One thing to point out is that I don’t speak a lick of German, but with Amazon you don’t have to!  I searched for the titles in English, the pictures of the covers confirmed I was ordering the right books.  So now it was time to add them to my cart.  While the text on the “add to cart” button was in German, the buttons and checkout process was so intuitive that I knew exactly what to do without even reading the text.  Since the spelling of the months are extremely similar to English, I was easily able to see that the delivery time was much more appropriate and since I was buying on the German site and shipping to Germany I was able to get Free shipping!  (which I knew because the location of the shipping charges are in the same place as on the US site—right where you would expect them).

Checkout Usability US Amazon

Checkout Usability Germany Amazon

By now you should be picking up on a consistent theme.  I was able to make this purchase without knowing any German because Amazon understood the value of consistency and meeting expectations.  While it is important to make your company stand out from the rest, be careful to ensure that you don’t actually make it harder for people to do business with you.  People abandon shopping carts for lots of reasons—don’t let a frustrating UI be one of them.