eBay has struggled with poor-quality product images for years. Despite many sellers who take great care to upload professional photos, small, low resolution photos (sometimes covered with text), litter search results pages far too often. Fortunately, it finally looks like eBay is taking aggressive steps to turn that around.
Today eBay announced that starting on July 2nd, eBay hosted-photos will be free for sellers on all listing types (up to 12 per listing). Previously sellers paid between $0.15 and $1.00 to post multiple pictures. These pricing changes mean that there will no longer be a financial barrier to include as many images as possible, especially since images play a large role in increasing sell-through rates and selling price.
In addition, this Fall sellers will be required to adhere to much stricter photo guidelines. These aggressive guidelines should raise the quality of images on eBay dramatically. It looks like eBay taking a two step approach: (1) encourage sellers to post more photos, and (2) require those photos to be of high-quality. Here are the four main changes:
1. All listings must have a picture
No more listings with the all-to-familiar gray polaroids. Every listing must have an accompanying photo.
Image: an auction listing without a photo. One can only guess what the “Bird” brooch looks like.
2. Photos will have minimum sizing requirements
Under the new guidelines, photos must be at least 500 pixels on the longest side of the image. Previously, many sellers uploaded small photos that obscured product details and made judging true product quality difficult. This new requirement will ensure that product photos contain details that buyers would have otherwise missed.
3. No borders or “image graffiti”
Many sellers resorted to modifying images to make them stand out more on search result pages. Popular modifications have included adding colored borders to images and overlaying text on top of images. Although in some cases, “image graffiti” helped sellers to brand their listings, it generally resulted in listings that degraded the search experience for buyers.
Image: Sample search results for “USA USA USA!”, I mean…”usb cable”
4. Stock photos will not be allowed for used items (with certain exceptions)
For all used items, stock photos cannot serve as the primary listing image, except for listings in the Books, Movies, Music, and Video Game categories. This means that many more listings will have original pictures. Sellers can no longer simply upload a stock product photo—they must take the time to photograph each used item. Many sellers already adhere to this practice, but it will certainly impact listings in many different categories.
Image: Under the new guidelines, this used bike auction would need to have an original product image.
We’re very excited for these changes and the renewed focus on image quality. By the end of the year, eBay will host one of the largest collections of original high-quality product photography. Listings will be displayed with greater detail, from more angles and views, and without being obscured by gimmicky image manipulations. We feel strongly that product discovery in many categories is best done visually. As these changes roll out, we’ll be able to do an even better job of building beautiful new ways to browse and search eBay listings.
When you use a well-designed product, almost everything about it seems obvious: of course your Dropbox account would live under one folder on your hard drive! A Facebook without a newsfeed wouldn’t be Facebook. You mean Twitter didn’t always have trending topics? Today, we take these features for granted, but they were once non-obvious bets on some combination of the company’s vision of the future and feedback from actual users.
We’re striving for Rummage to bring the same kind of intuitive experience to eBay, and as a small team with limited resources, we have to be very strategic about where we put our energy. So we’ve taken an approach similar to the companies mentioned above, relying heavily on user feedback to guide our design decisions.
We’ve been very happy with the results so far, and want to highlight a recent user-guided improvement to our seller profile cards as an example.
Our First Attempt at Seller Profile Cards
Our seller profile pages feature all of a seller’s listings along with a card summarizing the seller’s reputation on eBay. When Rummage launched, seller profile cards looked like this:
You’ll notice that despite mark-and-roxanne’s highly positive feedback ratio, the card emphasizes the most recent positive and negative reviews equally. We reasoned that since many shoppers scroll through pages of feedback just to read the one or two rare and potentially undeserved negative reviews, we might as well make it easy.
We knew this design would be controversial, but we decided to release it anyway for three reasons:
- It aligned with our vision of giving shoppers quick access to information about eBay sellers, including both positive and negative feedback
- We expected shoppers to get used to seeing sellers’ feedback presented this way, and understand that negative experiences are a possibility when shopping on eBay
- And most importantly: we didn’t want to spend too much time designing the seller profile cards when we were uncertain whether people would actually look at them
We deployed the feature, and promoted the update through our normal channels. We quickly learned some very interesting things:
- The seller profile page turned out to be extremely popular with eBay sellers because it gives them a nice way to present all of their inventory in an attractive, modern interface.
- But the only sellers who shared their profiles were the ones who didn’t have any visible negative feedback.
We reached out to some sellers and confirmed our initial concerns with the feedback card: it presented an unfair, imbalanced representation of the seller’s reputation. Given the popularity of this page and the justifiable reticence of a core part of our user base, we had to do better.
Seller Profile Cards Redesigned
The redesigned seller cards look like this:
See it on Rummage at this URL: http://rumma.ge/sellers/mark-and-roxanne
We’re much happier with this design because it still gives fast access to sellers’ recent positive and negative feedback (just hover your mouse over the feedback meter on any seller profile page), and also communicates the ratio of negative to positive feedback in a compact visual meter. Best of all, our sellers are happier too!
We know from experience that features rarely survive first contact with customers. The lean product development cycle we’ve adopted allows us to go into feature design sessions fully expecting that things will change. This imperfectionist mindset is liberating, and enables us to release rapidly, and learn about our users and business much faster.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at how we do things here. None of this would be possible without our awesome users – so a huge thanks to all of you! As always, please email us any time with whatever feedback you have: firstname.lastname@example.org – we can’t wait to hear from you :)