Related link: http://www.ebay.com
So I’m thinking about picking up a used computer system or two. I went to Half.com, looked around. There wasn’t anything compelling there. But I noticed the “go to ebay” buttons in the upper right hand corner, and I thought “I haven’t used e-bay in years. Maybe they’ll have something.”
I clicked around for a while and couldn’t really find anything. So I did a search. I searched for “server class computer” and got back a single result (for “Professional Java Server Programming”– good to know there’s a market for 5 year old Wrox books).
Trying “server computer” got back lots of results, none of which seemed useful.
Then I clicked “View Category | All” — that leads to
The Big Ontology, which is actually fascinating. Did you know “Barware” is a separate category of collectible?
Then I clicked on “Desktop PCs” and was confronted with a list of the first n items in a list of 9021 items. It gave me a summary of each system; I was supposed to click on a link associated with a particular item to get a drill-down page. The list is pretty readable, I suppose; the same information (CPU, etcetera) is available for each system. But the drill down pages are awful. They seem to be more about establishing the seller’s reputation than about the product. So you get these enormous pages with the data you’re interested in somewhere near the bottom.
Chossing a drill-down page at random, the page consists of:
- The information that was in the previous page.
- An offer for a free hat if I buy now (with a picture of the hat)
- A list of reasons why the seller is a good company
- A picture of a generic case
- Three pictures of generic cables.
- A claim that the price is a special value internet only deal and that I should act now.
- The actual details of what’s inside the machine, done in random order and with a level of detail that’s quite silly (I now know that the cooling fan has ball bearings. I guess I might have cared about that).
- Shipping Terms
- An advertisement for PayPal
So, in order to find out about this machine, I have to get to the big list, pick this machine out from the big list, go to the drill-down page, scan down a not-particularly well-formatted page of mostly useless information, and eventually realize it’s not really what I want.
Total running time: 3 to 5 minutes.
I’m not sure what my point is. I guess if I knew exactly what I was looking for, e-bay might work for me. But it doesn’t really seem to scale to the vast quantities of different items and different sellers very well.
What’s worse, while I can imagine there’s a market for software to assist people who plan to sell on e-bay, it’s harder to imagine a market for software to assist people who plan to buy on e-bay (unless you’re a very frequent buyer, the value of the software is minimal).
Do you use e-bay? If so, how? What would you do make e-bay more usable for people who are browsing?