August 20th, 2007
Someone in eBay’s user experience group must’ve rubbed the belly of a magic lamp last quarter, because a wish was definitely granted.
A month ago, the New York Times ran a story about eBay, reporting how eBay’s Chief Executive, Meg Whitman, is telling shareholders their number one priority for the rest of the year is to improve the site’s user experience.
According to the Paper of Record, Ms. Whitman told shareholders, “In the next six months, you will see more changes to eBay than you have in the last two or three years, whether that is an improved search experience or fun things that make the site better, like Bid Assistant, which allows you to bid on more than one item without worrying that you will end up buying five iPods by mistake.”
eBay is the 383rd largest company, according to the Fortune 1000 list. It’s really exciting when an F1000 chief executive is declaring user experience to be the solution to their lagging market share issues.
In fact, it’s exactly what we’ve been hoping for. For years, we’ve wanted executives to realize the benefits they could reap if they focused on user experience and, at eBay, it’s exactly what they are doing.
However, is it all good? After all, we’ve lived for years being the ignored black sheep, forever searching for an “ROI” message to convince people to realize the value in investing in UX work. At eBay, it’s clear the executive get it — the ROI problem has been solved there.
I asked Christian Rohrer at eBay if this was good news or if his life just became harder. He replied:
Great question! It simultaneously makes the job both harder and easier, because focusing on user experience means that we have to do even better work. It certainly gives us a voice!
The biggest work we have to do is transforming our processes to be more user-centered. That always takes time because we’ve spent so many years doing it differently. But it’s a refreshing change.
If you want to check out the kinds of things she’s talking about, visit this site:
which is a public space where we let people take a peak at some of the different experiences we are working on.
It’s true that much will change in the next 6 months. We have so many product rollouts that, by the end of the year, it may just look like a whole new site. But you know that this is only the beginning – lots of iterations will come after that. Nobody gets it right the first time (especially on the web :-).
If your executives took a major interest and started promising customers and shareholders for a dramatic instant improvement in your product/services user experience, would your organization be ready for it? Do you know what you would do?
I talked about this in more detail in a recent UPA Journal of Usability Studies article called Surviving Our Success: Three Radical Recommendations [PDF]. There’s no place to comment on the UPA site, but I’d love to hear what you think of the article, so please comment here.Tweet