eBay's finding nemesis

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search optionsSharp-eyed Powersellers this afternoon spotted a subtle but important change to the search options in eBay’s side bar. The check box to include Shop Inventory items has disappeared. It’s been replaced with two drop down menus: the first, titled Buying Options, gives a choice of auction-style or BIN listings; the second, titled More Buying Options, gives a choice of adding SIF listings, restricting your search to SIF only, or looking for classified ads.

I don’t know what eBay’s thinking is behind this change, but it seems at best pointless, and at worst, horribly confusing.
The interface is in itself confusing: usability guru Jakob Nielsen characterises drop-down menus as “often more trouble than they are worth”. With scroll mice, it’s easy to move on to the wrong option, and having to click the menu to open up the list of options just makes searching that bit more complex.

Splitting search options across two menus also makes for confusion in the mind of an inexperienced searcher. Allowing at least the potential to select mutally exclusive options (auction and classified, for example) builds ambiguity into the system: *not* what is wanted from a nice straightforward finding system. Similarly, the combination of drop down menu and then needing to click a checkbox to include the results of that menu is a level of complexity that just isn’t needed.

Confused yet? So are eBay’s programmers. If you select “auction” and “include SIF” from the two menus, the dialogue at the top of the search results tells you that you’re getting auctions and shop listings, but in fact, the only items that show up are auctions.

eBay *is* complex, and it’s difficult to design a search interface that covers everyone’s needs. I’d suggest that eBay build a form that reacts to what the user has put in: for example, give a simple option to start with: auction, BIN, or everything. If BIN or everything is clicked, then show another option: do you want to include shop items? That way, the form’s kept shorter, and those using it won’t require an A’level in eBay listing formats to use it.

4 Responses

  1. Have you tried using google to search ebay instead? It can be more rewarding for the esoteric stuff.

  2. It certainly works better if you’re trying to search the help pages!

    It’s also a trick eBay are missing with Shops: the long tail is arguably one of the more important ways of people finding such a disperate collection of items as things eBay sellers sell… It’s a shame eBay don’t see this, and just want to go for the close-to-instant turnover.

  3. It’s horrible. It worked perfectly well before, why did they have to change it? Yet another example of ebay taking things that work and fixing them until they break.

  4. Even worse, when I went to look the More Buying Options wasn’t showing at all – I had to go to Customise Display and add it in. And discovered a raft of other things I didn’t know about that I could have to display if I wanted to.

    How many people would think to check what they can show in the search boxes anyway?



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