There are many ways to interpret a Web site. Through user interfaces, design patterns, business achievements, and social acceptance, one can obtain a general and sufficient understanding of a Web site and what it has to offer. We may better comprehend and express the ability of a web site to achieve value for its users by comparing two sites. As a starting point, I will compare two distinctly different Web sites that have some overlap in functional capability. The sites will be compared on several dimensions, using different types of metrics and forms of description. By actively using both sites with experience I have gained through working with them, my research stays grounded in reality. Two sites that I am currently working with are Amazon and BookMooch. I use both to exchange books with others – selling books on Amazon, and exchanging books for free on BookMooch.

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As we start to describe Web sites, we find out quickly that our language is limited and we are only beginning to describe how to interact with online functionality. When is it just a Web site, and when does it become a Web application, and when does is become a platform that others can use? For some sites, the definitions are more clear cut because the site started out as one thing and is by definition that one thing - for example Facebook. That was designed to be social networking site and it is. But will it always be that way? As advertisers enter the fray, as others find ways of working the data available on Facebook walls, what are the limits? And what about other sites, like Amazon.com? You can buy books there and use the shopping cart metaphor; you can buy more than just books of course. You can also review books, rate books, rate reviews and add comments to reviews. Then there is another level of usage - you can sell books and have your own storefront, using Amazon as a platform to run your own online business. Amazon can keep track of the books you have to sell and automate some of the workflow of buying and selling books. Is this just a web site or is it a platform on which to run Amazon apps? With their API, you can develop applications that use the data available in their database of books, for example. As a way of doing some further analysis of Web site functionality, this discussion will compare Amazon.com, specifically the part that is used to sell books online, with another Web site that allows book exchange, called BookMooch.com, where users 'mooch' books from each other exchanging points but no dollars. BookMooch is a Web site that is much simpler than Amazon but has many of the salient features related to finding books, exchanging books, and contacting others involved with this process. It uses Amazon's database of books, but keeps track of transactions, allows friend-ing other users, emailing and discussing with other users, and reviewing books in its own way.


Here are some of the items for comparison:

UI Basics

User interface or more broadly the user experience, web site vs web app, one more so than the other; buttons and links, pictures and texts, layout and color and whitespace;
mobile access; browser support;

Search & Navigation

Ability to list and find books

Raw Data

BookMooch uses amazon data but not just US, also UK, Japan, etc.


workflow, similar, separate pages for separate actions;
widgets for interface by other sites; online help and support;


Internationalization, localization, personalization;

Personal Touch

Personal profile; my personal information; bio; how they keep track of your information; friends, wishlists, shopping cart, pending/transactions, inventory;


Social aspect; friends, communicating, emailing, forums; reviews, rating; dependence on good will

Value (business model)

Purpose of each and how achieved.

(This is a draft. A very rough start. More to come. Comments are welcome at any time.)


Contributors to this page: Bill Albing .
Page last modified on Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:52:28 am EST by Bill Albing.

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