In April 2011, I had a conversation with eBay about why users were “pogo sticking,” as they called it. People search, get results, go into an item, and less than 2 seconds later they leave that item and go back to search results… only to do it all again.
As a UX chick and eBay expert, this was obvious to me. Not sure why eBay couldn’t figure this out and was at a conference telling the audience they couldn’t figure this out.
When I discussed this with eBay staff, they told me they THINK that what people want to see is the name of the seller’s eBay Store. That must be what they are popping in to see. I told them I had to get off the phone to cry, and would send them some wireframes later.
I later sent them some really rough wireframes and some notes. I explained that what potential buyers really want to know is:
- What is this? Or is this what I think it is? And is it in the condition I expect it to be in?
- When will I get it? Or if I’m not logged in and you don’t know where I am, how fast does the seller ship it and HOW does the seller ship it? If you tell me a seller ships it within 2 days UPS 2 day, I have a good idea when I will get it.
- What’s the return policy? I don’t need all the steps. Can I return it or is this a final sale?
From there, it’s just details and nuances, especially in the conditions of used or refurbished items.
I won’t tell you how that conversation ended. I’ll just say let’s fast forward 4 years to see what search results look like now. Click to enlarge.
They look pretty much the same as when I last took a look 4 years ago.
I guess the good news is that eBay didn’t clutter it up by adding the seller’s eBay Store name. Because nobody cares what they named their store.
Let’s put our UX hats on and take a look at what a user can do here. I’ll pretend I’m new to eBay but I’m interested in this item. I searched for it. I found this one.
What information is easily discoverable about it? The price, shipping is free, how many people are watching it, and the fact that the seller might take a lower offer (“Best Offer”).
I also see the seller’s name, feedback, positive feedback percentage (though you’re not told what the 100% means… you are just supposed to KNOW that’s the percentage of positive feedbacks), that they are Top Rated Plus (I don’t know what that means), and they take PayPal (assuming you recognize the PP logo). I can zoom in on the picture.
I don’t know how quickly the seller will ship or how the seller ships it. I don’t know what condition it’s in. New? Used?
Let’s say I know that this is a very rare item and I’m ready to buy it right now. Where is that “Buy It Now” call to action button? Or if the seller will let you negotiate, where is the “Make An Offer” button for the Best Offer process?
What is the call to action here? I can’t really DO anything here other than click on the title to get to the detail page.
1) How sad that 4 years later, eBay seems to have made no progress in improving the UX of search results. I still lack some key information, there’s no real CTA, and I still have to click into the item detail page to learn what I wanted to learn. I’m under the impression there is a Product Manager just for this page. What is that person working on these last few years?
2) That means eBay is probably still seeing “pogo-sticking,” even 4 years after publicly complaining about it at the Product Camp event.
3) eBay is a site for people who already know how to use eBay. New sellers don’t get a good explanation of the rules or best practices. New shoppers aren’t told what logos and numbers mean. eBay just assumes you know what these mean (or you don’t care).
4) eBay hasn’t graduated to looking and feeling more like what shoppers are used to on eCommerce websites. While eBay may not really need an “add to cart” button because you’re bidding or “buying it now,” eBay’s interfaces should lean on what is familiar to shoppers as often as possible. That doesn’t mean ripping off Amazon. That won’t help you because Amazon doesn’t have “add to cart” buttons either. They want to first show you options.
eBay UXers should ask what they can do… wait a minute. That should have happened years ago. That should have happened before a guy is presenting at a conference saying that eBay has no idea why people bounce in and out of search results. So much should have happened so long ago (and so many times over for the best possible UX). What a shame that eBay has become a place most of us rarely or never go. I believe it’s too late for them to redeem themselves.
What can I expect search results will look like 2 years from now? Same?
In 2009, I was making some suggestions to eBay about what they should do with the “View Item” page. You know this on the page on eBay that shows you an individual item in detail. I realised that I was on to something, so I wrote a blog post to publicly publish my idea.
When people hit eBay’s View Item page, they tend to quickly glance at some details, and then immediately scroll down. They want to see what the seller wrote about this item, which might include pictures, details, and policies. eBay shoppers don’t spend a lot of time at the top of the page, which means they almost immediately scroll away from the top of the page… where the Buy or Bid button is.
I ran my mockup by some eBay staff. It lead to some phone interviews for a job I didn’t want. That’s a whole other story. But I was trying to solve problems eBay had aired at a conference I went to. What did they think of my idea?
eBay’s response at the time? TOO innovative. They told me they wouldn’t do it. OOOoooooooK!
I had mocked it up as a page you could scroll and play with. And my old blog post included a screen shot of my general idea:
The View Info page is there. And on the bottom is a bar that never leaves. No, I didn’t intend for it to end up green. Someone would design it. Yeah it might be a little cluttered. This is just a mockup of an idea.
The funny thing is that you now see this paradigm everywhere.
There are heaps of sites that pin something to the top of bottom. Some don’t pin something to the top or bottom until you have scroll a certain amount. You even see this in mobile.
And the idea is still the same: put the most important actions in front of the user.
I guess this was innovative and scary in early 2009. Now it’s commonplace and something clients ask me for on nearly every project. Since I was seeing it so much in 2013, I just had to post to say HEY I almost invented this 5 years ago. 🙂
According to this article from 1 November 2013, eBay is testing some layout changes to their “View Item” page. You know this as the page that showcases an individual eBay item for sale.
Here is a screen shot the article presents as the “new” testing version:
The article author seems most concerned that the information about the seller is deprioritised. That’s not my main concern. My main concern is…
Messaging With Colour, Especially Green
This is a UX and accessibility no-no. Depending upon whose numbers you believe, there are as many as 10% of living humans (mostly male) who have a form of colour blindness that will keep green from looking the way 90% of us see green. For some, green ends up some sort of shade of grey. So it’s especially curious that eBay put green on a grey background. This may be nearly invisible to color blind people.
This means that any design or layout that tries to convey something using just the colour green will probably be frustrating or confusing to about 10% of people.
Take a look at that testing version. eBay is using JUST green in multiple places: The savings and discount (in a few spots), the level of seller experience, the quantity remaining, and something else that’s cut off from this screen shot.
What Do I Mean By “Just Green”?
Best practices for both UX and accessibility say that you should never message just with colour, especially with a colour that a colour blind person may not be able to parse.
The same might be true for the shade of orange text they’re using. Traditionally, yellow is fairly colour-blind safe. Colours in the red family, as orange may be, might not look right to 10% of people. Holy cats, this whole panel might be mostly shades of grey on shades of grey for people with visual issues.
Best Practice: Icons
The best practice is to use an icon that can clue people in in case the colour doesn’t do it. The seller is experienced? Have icons representing how much experience, or special icons for the most experienced sellers (with a lack of icon meaning newer sellers). The quantity is limited? Can you use an icon to show that?
It’s not that hard and it doesn’t take up that much more room. But it’s important for quick parsing of information. Plus, using meaningful icons can help every user, not just users with visual issues.
And Consider Contrast For The Visually Impaired
As a bonus problem with this page, we might also ask if there is enough contrast between foreground and background colours for words to be easier read. Is that background grey too dark for the colours they’re dropping on it? Especially non-black colours like orange and green.
My guess would be that it would NOT pass web standards for colour contrast.
How does eBay even put this out there? Why aren’t there UX and visual design people taking these things into consideration? Who laid this out and decided no icons were needed?
This layout is a downgrade. That may not stop eBay from implementing it, though it should. A company that size with potentially unlimited resources should have an amazing UX team that kicks this page’s ass. But then again, eBay once tried to recruit me for a “senior” UX job for this exact page. And based on what it paid, well, you can see who they tend to hire. And that’s a shame because the entire site experience comes to a crossroads here. This is where people buy or choose to not buy.
I recently upgraded my smartphone to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phablet. My old phone was wonderful… the Samsung Galaxy S3. I kept it in nearly perfect condition. Case. Screen protector. I take care of my stuff.
I researched which site would offer me the most money to buy it back or trade it in. Same thing, different language on different sites.
Gazelle offered around $90.
eBay emailed me that if I upgrade my phone on eBay, I could get a $50 eBay card! I don’t think eBay can activate a Note 3 on Sprint, and that’s a bad offer.
Friends suggested I sell it on eBay. Well, I bought it for $199 at Best Buy in July 2012. Not sure it’s worth that much used on eBay.
It appears to be worth the most to the Best Buy Trade In Center. They asked me the usual questions, and I was surprised to see that they offered me $170 for the phone.
That’s about TWICE the second best offer I had. Wow. Yes please! Went through their checkout, sent it in, and yesterday got an email that they agreed with my condition assessment of the phone. Obviously, if they disagree, they might give you less money. Click to enlarge.
Well, they agreed, and $170 is on its way to me in the form of a Best Buy gift card. That’s OK by me. I live near 2 Best Buys and tend to buy there often.
Just for kicks, I typed into eBay the phone I currently have (as of when I’m writing this). The Samsung Galaxy S3. Look at what I get back. Click to enlarge.
Over 36,000 search results. No way I’m paging through THAT. But look at the left column. Around 4,000 are phones. Around 30,000 are accessories. That means that when I put in a phone model name and the word phone, eBay has no idea what I’m looking for. They can’t even guess.
eBay assumes I’m looking for a battery but didn’t type battery. eBay assumes I’m looking for cases through I didn’t type case. I typed PHONE. I’m looking for a phone.
eBay’s Best Match search results (sorted by eBay’s internal algorithm) do put phones at the top. But like many people, I re-sort my eBay search results to show lower priced items first. Now I’m looking at chargers, cables, and other items starting at $0.01.
Those aren’t phones.
I’m not a technical expert on how to fine tune searches. But I do know about human behaviour, and how frustrating it can be to get thousands more search results than you should. I can’t help but wonder how many times someone types ONLY “samsung galaxy s3 phone” into eBay, and is NOT looking for a phone.
I’ve noticed on a few sites that a scale they give you doesn’t really mean what it turns out to mean.
Take eBay. They found that their feedback system of positive, neutral, and negative wasn’t really doing the job. They created 4 criteria, and let people rate 1 through 5 stars. So if you ask me to rate how someone’s shipping speed was from 1-5, it’s a sort of Likert scale. eBay shows the average score for each criterion, and you can be in trouble for having anything under a 4.6 average out of 5 for any criterion. That means you’re in trouble for getting under a 92 on a test. WOW.
Most people will give a 4 out of 5 even if they were very happy. 4 out of 5 feels like the seller was great. Most people would reserve 5 for such amazing service it’s nearly off the chart.
But what most people don’t know is that eBay penalises you for getting anything lower than a perfect score of 5. You’re in super trouble if you get 1s or 2s. But think about what I said about about how any average under 4.6 starts to get mean trouble for eBay sellers. That means that giving someone a 4, which feels like a perfectly good score, actually lowers that seller’s average, bringing them closer to a 4.0 average… and closer to being on eBay’s poop list.
Then is a 5-star scale the right thing?
I’m not sure a 5-star scale is the right way to approach this if you have decided that 1 and 2 are equally bad, 3 and 4 are almost equally mediocre, and 5 is the only good score. It’s almost positive, neutral, and negative all over again just with more granularity and more for sellers to stress over.
I also saw this on eHarmony.
I also saw what I felt was rating scale abuse on eHarmony when I was trying it in 2011. They asked you what you wanted in a partner for a particular quality. For example, is it important that the person have a certain level of education? You pick what level of education, and then there was a slider from 1 to 7.
It turns out that rating something 1 through 6 lead eHarmony to mostly ignore whatever that preference was. When I said having a college degree was of importance 6 out of 7, I got guys who never went to college. When I slid it to 7, I only got people who graduated from college.
To the user, this appears to be binary, not a scale.
I either get guys who match my preference, or they get filtered out completely. On/off. Binary.
Behind the scenes, perhaps a scale is being used. Maybe they weight people with a college degree more than people without because of your preference. But couldn’t this still be achieved with a three-point scale? Let’s say I tell the dating site I want a guy with a college degree. It could then ask me to pick how important it is to me to have a partner with this quality:
- Not important at all.
- Somewhat important.
- It’s a 100% must-have.
This could still be enough info to let the dating site weight people. And it’s enough to let me put my foot down on mandatory qualities where I need to. If he has to have no kids, be of a certain religion, or be a certain ethnicity, this scale of 3 should be enough for a good user experience AND behind the scenes data crunching experience. I mean, how differently will you rank someone who never got a college degree when I say having a college degree is 3 on a scale of 7 vs 4 on a scale of 7?
eBay emails me often. But this one was special. Deals tailored for me (I blurred my name). I figured they’d use my searching and purchase history to push me things I couldn’t resist. I was wrong.
I have never searched for or bought anything relating to ANY of those. Yet I have searched for and/or bought things relating to a Samsung Galaxy S3, external battery pack, body jewelry, and my old HTC phones.
None of that data or intelligence was used, which means these aren’t deals tailored for me. They’re things eBay wanted to plug with no regard for what I tend to search or buy.
What the hell is going on with logos? For years, I’ve felt like people are afraid of doing anything creative or symbolic. So many logos now are wordmarks or text treatments without any symbols or art.
Once upon a time, we had some real logos! Nike’s swoosh. UPS’s shield. Fed Ex and their negative space arrow. MLB. Apple’s rainbow apple. AT&T’s IBM-ish striped world.
Now? Samsung. Coach. Nordstrom. Old Navy. We can name zillions of logos that are just the company name written out. At least Best Buy has the recognisable yellow price tag.
What is going on lately. First Microsoft decides that the best logo is to look like someone sat down and typed “Microsoft.”
Now eBay. Behold the after and before, in that order:
OK, their logo was a little kooky, but people KNOW it. It meant something. What does the new logo mean or say? Is this really a rebranding or just an excuse to hire an agency… who just sat down and typed it right after they got done typing Microsoft. Does this logo say “dynamic future” to you? Did the old logo NOT say “dynamic future”?
And why does anybody expect a logo to say so much. I tell people a logo in an image or graphic that stands for a company name. A GOOD logo is one where when we see it, we remember the company name. Bad logo? No idea what company that is. Company name is just words written in a really plain font? Hmmmmm.
But we can’t expect a logo to SAY too much. I deal with that with clients now and then. They want their logo to say “We’re global” and “We’re here for you” and “We’re a great value” and “People love us” and “We’re luxurious but casual” and so on. I say pick on message if you’re going to try to have your logo communicate anything. Do not try to have multiple messages in a logo.
And do not assume that a logo means to the general public what it means to a dude in a marketing office who wrote a brief with so much BS in it he inspired an office drinking game.
Extra points to The Gap for trying a new logo and then scrapping it. New and old (and new again) logo below:
In case you’re looking for me in particular, or in case you might want a UX/UI, branding, marketing, or process flows consulting, look for me! Tweet me @brassflowers so we can find a time to talk. I have a range of clients, but love working with startups and developers on fresh ideas, great UI, and making things beyond obvious to use.
eBay just announced their “Small Business Center,” which I found immediately insulting. Did it have any of the tips that people need to become successful eBay sellers? Like what to do with titles and item specifics? No. It had links to Vistaprint, PayPal, and BeKnown. Many people are probably aware of those first two, and BeKnown shouldn’t exist, in my opinion. I don’t need an app to take people I’m already Facebook friends with, and try to turn that into a baby LinkedIn. Besides, Facebook is my personal world. LinkedIn is my biz world.
Underneath that, eBay had suggestions of great things you can buy for your business right now, right here on eBay. OK, that sounds good. Until I saw what they were recommending (click to enlarge each):
The IBM Wheelwriter typewriter! Yes, that’s what my small business needs for sure! A typewriter! Maybe I can also get a Betamax for training videos. Next, I clicked “Office Supplies” from that left column, thinking that could have good stuff…
You know, nothing says “small business” like Precious Moments sticky notes. I think I actually mean that, though not really in a nice way. Yes, if someone sent me a sticky note with a cartoon character of a deceased, angellic child on it, I would assume that person is running a VERY small business. And eBay recommends thermal paper! Is that for my fax machine? But wait, eBay wants to suggest smartphones for me. Surely, this will mean an iPhone, or one of those hot new Android phones… yes?
Well, two of those are not smartphones, and the other two aren’t that smart as they’re not on major OS platforms. So for your small business smartphone needs, eBay suggests these outdated, non-smartphones. This is laugh out loud stuff, people. But wait, there’s one more. Aren’t you wondering what eBay suggests for office furniture? I was wondering!
Oh very comfy office furniture indeed! Yes, come sit your butt down on a pile of lock cores and keys! The other things there are NEARLY furniture, though I would probably push a small biz person to get a nice desk, comfy chair, and more traditional office furniture. A universal locking drawer may not be first on the list of the small business person.
Oh, eBay. How do you do this stuff. Why do you do this stuff. I’m not sure I’ll ever really know. And I’m sure this went through piles of managers, and got approved. Yet, it’s so incredibly bizarre. What do small eBay businesses need most? Clear explanations of eBay rules and interpretations. An understanding of best practices, like titles and item specifics. A mountain of help on putting together compelling listings that look professional… like sans Comic Sans, and sans animated GIFs of UPS delivery guys. I’m on year 11 of hoping eBay will really help small businesses. I will keep hoping.