During the earlier days of the web there were more websites that allowed the user to customize the layout and content on specific pages of the site. While mainly focused on portal type sites, there were plenty of websites that allowed the user to move or add/delete content sections around the page.
While recently thinking about how to improve Amazon.com (just for fun, no affiliation) I started pondering the questions: why have more sites moved away from giving a user the ability to customize more of the page and as a designer how do you weigh what you think you know is better for the user (and any site goals you have) vs. giving up control.
For instance, Amazon.com puts massive amounts of attention to every pixel on their product pages. But, let’s say as a user I want my Customer Reviews section at the top of the page, with a small price box and buy button – not what the page looks like today. Should Amazon relinquish the massive amounts of research it has into presenting a currently perfected (I say currently because they’re always running experiments so it’s never a ‘final’ thing) page that balances user behavior, desire and conversion and allow me to customize the page? Or, should they keep ‘making’ me scroll all the way to the middle/bottom of the page for reviews and still present me with options (frequently bought together) that I never (consciously) use?
Judging by the amount I buy on Amazon, I’d say everything they’re doing is working. But, now that we’ve moved away from the ‘customize everything’ gimmicky early days of websites, will we start to move back towards giving our users more control and customization.