eBay Tests Page That Ignores UX and Accessibility Best Practices

Posted By Debbie on November 8, 2013

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:

view item page

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.