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Earlier this month eBay overhauled its iPad app to offer users a range of new functions and hi-res images.
The app now has a customisable homepage, back button and new ways to view search results. eBay appears to have taken the liberty of giving itself five stars in the product description, but are the upgrades actually an improvement?
User reviews in the App Store show that opinion is fairly polarised: 362 people give it five stars but 265 give it one star.
I gave the app a test run to see how user-friendly it was for an eBay amateur.
The homepage is uncluttered and easy on the eye, with shortcuts to your favourite sections and a large search function at the top of the page.
You can set three larger icons at the top of the page and choose up to 12 other shortcuts that sit towards the bottom of the screen.
These can include items you are buying, selling or recently viewed, specific searches, categories or even eBay’s daily deals. If the icons aren’t your thing, then you can swipe a toolbar out from the left-hand side of the screen which offers all the same options in a list form.
The search function is central to the eBay app and is signposted everywhere you look. It is a simple process to search by the specific item or by product category.
Search results can then be viewed in one of three ways, with each offering slightly different product information and images.
Results can be easily sorted by the usual options, such as price or the time the auction ends, or refined further by category, buying format or condition.
All in all it’s very convenient to browse items, and you can easily get lost scrolling through everything eBay has to offer.
Again, eBay has done a great job here of designing good-looking pages. Product images look great on the new iPad screen and you can easily view all the necessary information.
Items can be added to your ‘watching’ list by clicking one button and selecting product options, such as size or colour, is also very intuitive.
Placing a bid is also a simple, one-click process, however I must admit that I didn’t actually trial completing a transaction and therefore can't vouch for how easy it is to enter in all the necessary PayPal details.
This is where the app fails to impress and probably accounts for the one star ratings. At first the process seems simple, all the required information is presented in tabs on the left of the screen so you know upfront what will be asked.
And not all the tabs are compulsory, so you can get away with entering fairly limited information, although this will probably make your item less likely to sell.
The first problem I ran into was in the photo tab. Images have to be uploaded from the iPad’s gallery, which is fine, but why can’t you just take an image within the app?
I’d already entered in several tabs worth of product information and didn’t want to risk losing it by leaving the app to take a photo.
Surely it is possible to snap a quick image within the product tab? Or scan a barcode?
The next issue I had was with the payment options – or payment option, because you can only use PayPal. The Android app offers a number of payment methods, including cheque, postal order and credit cards, so why not on iPad?
While it benefits eBay to force people to use PayPal, it definitely harms the user experience.
The final problem with selling an item is that at no point are you told how much it will cost. Users are only told that they will be charged ‘a final value fee based on a percentage of the item’s total cost to the buyer’.
You obviously don’t expect eBay to be a free service, but users should know upfront how much they are going to be charged.
If you’re looking for a straightforward shopping experience, then the eBay app is perfect. Browsing products is simple and fun, which is exactly the kind of experience tablet users are looking for.
However, the UX is far less enjoyable when it comes to selling items.
Limiting users to one payment option and hiding the cost of listing an item offers a dreadful user experience, which you don’t expect from an eBay app.
As such, I suspect that users will stick with the desktop site or smartphone apps for listing items.
But the buying experience is near to perfect, and should help drive eBay’s mobile revenues past its $8bn target for 2012.