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eBay Users Blast App Redesign

They came, they saw, they freaked the hell out.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

They came, they saw, they freaked the hell out.

Furious with a redesign that they say forces shoppers to browse through products they have little interest in, eBay users have trashed the company’s redesigned iPad app over the last few days. The new version of the app, which rolled out on Tuesday, has received an average rating of one and a half out of five stars, with more than 2,100 reviews. Previous versions of the app had a combined rating of more than four stars.

The complaints come from both the buyer and seller sides. This review sums up a lot of what people are complaining about:

“[I]t’s as if the thing has been purposely designed to make it as hard as possible for a buyer to find and watch those items that really interests him, or for a seller to see the status of his various listings.

“Before, we had a robust tool for searching, watching, bidding, and selling. Now, we have a lightweight, SkyMall-like e-catalog designed for aimless browsing and impulse buying. If you liked the old eBay app, you’ll hate this new one.”

EBay declined to comment.

The app changes come at a risky time for the company: Smack in the middle of the critical shopping run-up to Christmas. Online retailers typically institute a “code freeze” during this season, which prohibits any significant changes to the site. EBay product head RJ Pittman told Re/code earlier this week that the redesign was supposed to launch in the new year, but positive results from an internal beta test persuaded him to push the launch ahead into this year.

Pittman, a veteran of Apple, said the redesign was meant to help shoppers discover the hidden gems that often go overlooked inside eBay’s 800-million product catalogue. To help with that discovery, eBay is curating some of these products into thematic collections that are highlighted front and center on the welcome screen of the app. The redesign is also meant, in part, to help increase the differentiation between eBay and Amazon, which has become the default destination for online product searches.

With any rash reaction from customers, there are all sorts of caveats. EBay sellers, for one, are notoriously vocal, so this may simply be par for the course. For many sellers, their eBay shop is a full-time job, so they view any significant change as a threat to their livelihood. That’s understandable.

It’s also common for any large Internet platform to see backlash when it makes big changes to the user experience. When eBay released its latest update to its iPhone app, it had a rating of two stars after the first week. It slowly rose to more than four stars after a few weeks. It’s now hovering around three and a half stars.

So I’m not expecting eBay to cave and reverse changes anytime soon. But if the reviews persist for weeks or months, eBay may have to reconsider.

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