eBay’s new look: when cleaner isn’t better


To keep you all updated! You may already know that US consultancy Lippincott has redesigned eBay to have “a cleaner look”, “more intuitive customer engagement” and “personal curation”. This has gone live on the US eBay site, and has eBay’s international sites over the last few months. Here is an article from the time of the original redesign:

Sample screenshots present a Pinterest-esque vision of online bidding: well-lit, carefully colour-coordinated photos of home entertainment goods, handbags, and home furnishings grouped in staggered lines. So it was with some trepidation that I visited the actual site.

Thankfully, the real scope of the changes isn’t quite so drastic. The logo has gone soft-focus, and so have some of the photos, but there are still a lot of terrible-quality pictures taken against backdrops of wrinkled bedsheets, walls with yellowing paint, or flooring that’s the same colour as the product being sold – and that’s comforting.

Because here’s what Lippincott’s redesign fails to recognise: eBay isn’t supposed to be cool.

The new launch!
The new launch!

The selling point of eBay and sites like it are the pure triumph of finding a bargain (brand-name boots with a starting price of £5!), acquiring hard-to-find items (high heels that actually fit my size 2 feet! A T-shirt from 1979 with a picture of your favourite obscure band – you know, the album cover they weren’t legally allowed to print!) and the thrill of winning the bidding war (I got those boots in the end. They went up to £23 in the last few minutes, but they were mine). In fact, I liked the straightforward brightness of the old logo. I liked the bargain-basement look of the whole site, which brought back fond memories of raiding the discount stores back home.

eBay also allows you to browse items you would never normally buy, on impulses that would just be embarrassing if they were “personally curated”. I recently purchased a red wig and bright green hot pants off eBay for a Halloween costume, and seeing the related items at the bottom of the screen was bad enough; they involved the words “UV”, “RAVE”, “ANIME STYLE” and “ZEBRA LEGGINGS”, all in capital letters, which are not words I use a lot (or ever) in my everyday life. I can’t imagine having a clothing selection based on UV RAVE ANIME STYLE ZEBRA LEGGINGS actually “curated” for me, to this imaginary sense of taste that I was perceived to have.

I have no problem with companies considering their branding aesthetics, since as a consumer, aesthetics are usually the first things I notice. However, it would be nice if companies were also willing to examine their branding and then – if it worked – to leave it the way it was.

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