As the end of 2010 draws nearer, it’s just about time to begin the ever-important holiday shopping ritual. This year, before you venture out into the cold to fight endless crowds and endure ridiculously long lines, why not try out some window shopping from the comfort of your couch?
Windowshop for iPad is a free app that gives you the entire Amazon experience in a custom format that was designed from the ground up for the iPad. Keep reading to see if it’s good enough to bring some sanity to your hectic holiday season.
The Windowshop interface, shown below, stays pretty much the same throughout the browsing experience. The top of the screen has various controls and buttons and the rest is consumed with a grid of items that scrolls freely in all directions (it locks into a direction as you start scrolling).
The UI control design is actually quite attractive. The dark bar contrasts nicely with the white background below and the subtle realism is perfectly executed. Here’s a shot at 100% zoom.
The main screen is a large grid populated with content from various sections of Amazon organized into columns. Each of the many columns is topped by a header identifying that category name. To drill down into a category, simply tap the header. This will take you into similar grid organized by sub-categories within the topic you’ve selected.
Though the interface is clean and attractive, I was initially overwhelmed with the seemingly endless grid of products. However, once you get used to thinking in columns and continual drilling down via the header buttons, the process quickly becomes second nature.
Fortunately, Amazon allows you to also browse in a much more linear fashion. Tapping the “Browse” button at the top left will bring up the following pop-up window.
From here you can see all the categories in a nice and simple list. As you tap on a category, the grid in the background updates and a new list will appear with sub-categories. You can also affect what’s displayed in the grid by swiping the option at the top to show Bestsellers, New Releases, Recommendations, Most Gifted or Most Wished For.
Obviously, if you already know what you’re searching for, there is an integrated search feature that will take you right to it. This is also perfect for finding products in specific category that’s not listed on the main screen (such as “Apple” or “iPhone”).
Once you find a product that you’re interested in, simply tap on it to bring up the product info window, shown below.
From here you can see photos of the product, read descriptions and reviews, view related products, add the item to your cart or even put it on your Amazon Wish List. You can also use the arrows at the top and bottom of the screen to skip to the next or previous product.
One thing that surprised me is that frequently, in place of a product photo you’ll actually see a promotional/informational video. I actually really like this feature. The content loads lighting fast and runs smoothly and provides a much richer experience than a simple image. However, I do wish that the videos would wait until you pressed “Play” to begin instead of automatically starting when you tap on an item.
Purchasing products from Windowshop is a basic process that you’ve seen a thousand times elsewhere. You throw your items into a shopping cart and check out when you’re finished. There’s also a neat “Buy Now” option if you’re just getting one thing and want to ditch the cart process.
After this, you need only type in your shipping and billing information and you’re ready to go. The app also has a nifty package tracker so you can check on your shipments and see when they’ll be arriving.
Windowshop is definitely a solid app and a needed improvement over the Amazon Mobile iPad application. The experience is quite enjoyable and really benefits from being designed specifically for the iPad. In fact, in many ways it’s better than the main website.
As I mentioned above though, the grid does take some getting used to and I fully expect many users to absolutely hate it. Just remember that drilling down is the key, whether through the Browse menu or category headers. In fact, I would say the real strength in this app lies in the ease and enjoyability of browsing through what Amazon has to offer (hence the name of the app).
One of the areas I’d like to see improved is the Wish List functionality. I love that you can create and edit Wish Lists in the app but there’s no way to search for those from your friends and family so you can see what they want (this functionality is present on the Amazon site). I’d also like to see support for portrait orientation (with a grid-based app this should be simple) and maybe a way to bookmark items without actually adding them to your Wish List.
Bottom line, if you’re an online shopper, go download Windowshop. It’s free, attractive and enjoyable to use. The app runs very smoothly and hasn’t crash on me yet. Even if you’ve never tried online shopping, this is a great place to start. Once you skip those long lines you’ll never go back.
Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of Windowshop. Do you like shopping in columns or does the format feel too restrictive? Is Windowshop better than the Amazon mobile app? You tell us!