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Some Observations on the eBay for iPad 3.4.0 App

December 31st, 2014 | 2 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

(This is a copy of an “issue” I posted on the eBay Mobile forum on getsatisfaction.com. The original is here. As it happens, some of the more “divisive” posts and comments in the forum are being deleted, so I am making a copy here in case they choose to delete it there.)

 

(TL;DR version: the 3.4.0 version of the app makes some very dubious interface/experience decisions, and you are quickly losing your power-users)

Dear Ginger et al,

Since the release of the 3.4.0 version of the eBay iPad app, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion, almost all negative, here on this forum. I would like to present some of my own concerns and observations in a (hopefully) more even tone.

First, a bit of background: I’m not quite sure when I first joined eBay as a user, but it’s been in the neighborhood of 20 years. My eBay ID is “randy.j.ray”, and while I haven’t sold a lot of stuff I do have a pretty good feedback rating. So I’ve been using eBay since long before mobile devices were even a thing. My professional background is in software engineering with an emphasis on web-based applications. I’ve been developing web content and web applications since 1993. I do not (and cannot) claim to be an expert in UI/UX issues (user interface/user experience issues), but I have my fair share of experience in creating interfaces and experiences (as well as my fair share of bad design decisions). So I’m not just a typical dissatisfied user of the app, I am looking at it with a critical, professional eye.

The redesign of the app is a failure.

Your own chief product officer, R.J. Pittman, said in an article on re/code that the goal was to make the app look more like Pinterest and less like Amazon. His actual words were, “I’m happy to openly use the Pinterest model as an example.” I don’t understand this– Pinterest is not really a commerce site, whereas Amazon is one of the leading commerce sites on the web. I’m not saying that you should emulate Amazon, nor am I saying that there are not people using Pinterest for commerce purposes. But it seems counter-intuitive to choose something like Pinterest as a model for an app that is intended to be focused on buying and selling things.

For years, I used eBay through the website interface because that was really all there was, save for some platform-specific applications (usually Windows-based, and I don’t run Windows). During this time, my usage pattern for eBay was generally:

  • I need something
  • A Google search leads me to eBay
  • I use eBay’s searching capabilities to try finding the best price
  • I buy the item

Note that I don’t list “browse generally for anything that might interest me” in that list. This was not very easy to do on the website, so I rarely (if ever) did it.

Then a few years ago I bought an iPad, and one of the apps that I happened across for it was the eBay app. I installed it out of curiosity and fired it up. It was amazing! Suddenly, searching and browsing were significantly easier than they had ever been on the website. The endless scrolling of items in a category or search was (and is) highly addictive. Being able to easily jump to a seller’s other items and have the same scrolling experience led to a lot of impulse purchases. (Hey! This seller consolidates shipping! What else can I buy?) But what really made the app for me, was the ability to place “shortcuts” on the primary screen for various searches and categories that I regularly used/browsed. From the feedback I’ve seen on this forum, this feature was the real “killer feature” for your app, because it seems to be the feature that people are most upset over losing.

Well, that and the introduction of “curated content” into the app’s home-screen. Your impression of content to promote has no relation (that I can reason) to my shopping preferences. There are fashions, jewelry, etc. being offered to me when I have never even browsed any of those categories, let alone spent the kind of money that I have on my preferred categories. When I first ran the new app, I thought it must have lost my login credentials, when I saw all that unrelated stuff being put in front of me. But nothing I did could get rid of it. It wasn’t a bug, it was a feature.

What was worse, was the lack of my saved searches on said home-screen. Not only was I being bombarded with useless (to me) content, the content I did want was no longer easily available. I say “easily”, because as you have pointed out it is still reachable. Only now it takes 3 clicks/taps to reach a saved search, instead of just 1. Huh? At what point did someone decide that 3x the effort to perform a common function was an improvement?

Someone (I forget who) said in a different online article that the app was meant to be released after Christmas, but it had tested “so well” with beta users that it was pushed out early. Who were these beta users? Were they regular users of the 3.3.X line of the eBay app? Or were they people with little to no previous experience with eBay apps, who were judging the app without any past context? I can see how the app might look fine to someone who had not used a previous version, but did you engage any of your “power users” in the beta cycle? Because you are losing these users on a daily basis, and I’m not sure if you’re even aware of it.

Which brings up my last complaint: the responsiveness of your staff who are responsible to replying to users specifically in this forum. There has been a real lack of responsiveness here, and when someone has responded it often comes across as condescending. For example, there have been several cases where someone would say (and I am paraphrasing here), “I don’t like that the saved searches have been moved,” and the response (again, paraphrasing) would be, “Oh, you can’t find saved searches? Well just tap here, then here, then…” The user never said they couldn’t find the feature, they were unhappy with having to tap three times for something that was previously directly available on the home screen. But the responses we’ve been getting from your representatives seem to not really be looking at the issue at hand, but rather assuming that we just don’t know how to operate the app. To be frank, it’s insulting.

I’ll stop at this point, because I feel I’ve addressed all the salient points. It seems to me that you made a wholesale change to the fundamental usage-pattern of your app, but without actually considering the users themselves. And in the process, you have angered and alienated a large number of them. Perhaps not enough of them are leaving for you to notice. Perhaps there have been enough new users, people who received iPads for Christmas and have never seen the previous version of the app for comparison, that you consider the lost users an acceptable rate of churn. I don’t know. For my part, I’ve used iTunes to restore the 3.3.1 version of the app and am once again happily buying more things than I probably should be. But if you should fully deprecate the 3.3.X line (by making a non-portable API change, etc.) and force me into the new model of app, I’ll simply quit spending money on eBay (as so many people have already chosen to do). There is very little that I find on eBay that I cannot find elsewhere; it’s just easier to find on eBay. But if you take away that easiness, then why shouldn’t I just go straight to other storefronts?

Please consider what I have said here, at least think about it. Your users are, or at least have been in the past, fiercely loyal to you. That sort of loyalty should be valued, not squandered.

Randy J. Ray
Sunnyvale, CA

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