The Good News Is That eBay's Ugly New Homepage Can Be Fixed

Jack Abraham, eBayJack Abraham knows how to fix eBay’s new homepage. (Too bad he’s leaving.)

Photo: @jackabraham

eBay just rolled out a new look for its homepage. It’s a big disappointment.With a tiled layout many have compared to Pinterest, the redesign, dubbed the “Feed” internally, features photos of listed items based on specified “interests”—keywords, really.

It’s not so much a personalised homepage, like eBay’s marketing copy promises, as a visual display of saved searches.

There are two problems with that.

It fails to deliver on the promise of “social discovery,” an e-commerce industry buzzword which means the serendipitous display of items you didn’t know you were looking for but want to buy. You’re just seeing photos of things you already told eBay you want, displayed slightly differently.

A lot of the photos on eBay are—how do we put this delicately?—hideous. Taken by ordinary consumers or semiprofessional sellers, the photos in listings are indifferently composed and lit, often overlaid with funky typography. They don’t look any better when arranged in a Pinterest-style layout. If anything, the new Feed highlights how ugly they are.

We aired these concerns on Twitter Monday night to Jack Abraham.

Abraham is the founder of Milo, a local-shopping engine he sold to eBay in 2010. Until recently, when he announced that he would leave the company, he ran eBay’s local-commerce business. He also led the Feed redesign project. 

The good news: It sounds like eBay is on the case—and Abraham is remaining an advisor to CEO John Donahoe, so there’s a good chance his ideas might still get implemented.

Abraham told us that soon you would be able to follow people, not just keywords:

eBay does have some ways of following people on the site—watching individual sellers, for example—but they are extremely kludgey, and buried in a “My eBay” section that’s not integrated into the new homepage at present. Abraham’s tweet suggests they will be in future iterations.

What would be really compelling for eBay to do is let you follow other people and let their interests and actions shape what’s displayed in your feed. That might surface items you never knew you wanted.

The issue I had with ugly listing photos is a chicken-and-egg problem. eBay’s current listing format seems to encourage garish photos with big type. As sellers become aware of how bad their photos look in the new homepage, and how that affects sales, they may improve their photography over time.

Abraham agreed, and said that there were new “seller incentives” on the way:

It’s unclear what those incentives might be. But eBay has dramatically improved the listing tools in its mobile app, which might improve those photos.

eBay would be well-served to take a page from startups like Airbnb and HotelTonight, which have actually done their own professional photography for the lodging they sell.

That might not be economical for every category of eBay listings, but at the very least, eBay could set up a marketplace for product-photography services—perhaps at subsidized prices.

Anything’s better than the cascade of visual misfortune eBay’s new feed is serving up today.

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