A private Amazon shopping experience

“I wish I could search privately while on Amazon.”

-Me, October 2017

The problem is not having an option of privacy

Whether I’m shopping for surprise gift or an embarrassing item for myself, sometimes I just want privacy while shopping on Amazon. Specifically, I don’t want every item I search for or purchase:

  • To be easily accessible in my order history.
  • To appear in my search history.
  • To influence the ads I see outside of Amazon.

And I’m not the only one that thinks so

I asked friends on Instagram if they would use an Incognito search on Amazon. After following up with the people that answered “no”, the most common answers were “I don’t buy sketchy things” and “no one else uses my Amazon account”. A few people changed their answers after I explained the benefits of an Incognito mode and why using Google Chrome’s Incognito mode to search Amazon wouldn’t solve the problem.

A solution inspired by Google Chrome’s Incognito

A simple and accessible “Incognito” mode. While searching in Amazon’s version of Incognito, anything I search for or purchase:

  1. Will not appear in my search history.
  2. Will only be accessible via a password-protected Incognito Order History section (distinct from my regular Order History).
  3. Will not influence any recommendations inside of Amazon.
  4. Will not influence advertisements shown to me outside of Amazon.

How I got there

I wanted Incognito to integrate into the existing iOS experience so it was important to not disturb current features of the existing app unless I absolutely had to. I took note of the existing Amazon iOS search experience and contemplated why certain features were emphasized. What is Amazon trying to promote in their current experience? What business goals might I be unaware of that would cause them to promote these features?

Current iOS search experience. Home (left); after tapping search box (right).

I realized that voice and photo search are clearly important to Amazon. This comes as no surprise given their heavy investments in Alexa and Machine Learning.

I then explored different ways of surfacing the Incognito option while keeping voice and photo search highly visible. Would it be a smoother experience to surface it before or after you tap the search bar? Should the Incognito option be in-line with previous search results? How will we educate the user on what Incognito means without overwhelming them?

My first wireframe replaced the camera and microphone icons with three dots (“more”) to show search options including Incognito, Photo, and Voice in a drop-down. I decided hiding the options behind the three dot icon didn’t give the feature enough visibility.

The next wireframe kept the camera and microphone icons as-is and featured the Incognito option at the top of your search history. I liked the visibility of having Incognito at the top of the screen but decided including it with search history made for an inconsistent experience.

My next wireframe was close to what I ended up going designing the interactions for. With a solid wireframe in-hand, I cleaned up the existing home screen a little (let’s not call this a redesign) and created visuals and interactions for the solution shown above :)

Minor edits to the existing iOS home screen UI

Reflection: it’s good… not great

After some reflection and feedback from friends, I think the concept is a quick start to a needed feature but is lacking in a few ways.

First, I think the Incognito button may be too visible being at the top of the screen and in-sight every time you tap the search bar. Personally, I would use this feature for <10% of my searches and imagine most other Amazon customers also would fall into this range. With so little usage, I wouldn’t give the feature “prime” real estate on the screen. See what I did there? 😅

I also think showing the Incognito option on the same level as the Photo and Voice Search options doesn’t make sense. Photo Search and Voice Search are mutually exclusive in that you can only do one or the other; however, searching Incognito prohibits you for neither Photo or Voice Search. I think Incognito should be displayed in a way that demonstrates this.

Lastly, I would like to flush out a more holistic and integrated Incognito experience. How does this experience work on desktop and tablet devices? How does it work with Echo devices and Alexa? What is the experience like finding and looking through Incognito Order History? Should the password-protected Incognito Order History be the same password as the account or different? How does this experience translate to international markets? Just a few things to think through before arriving at a solid customer experience.