I started working on eBay's Android App in 2010. When I left in 2016, it had been installed over 100 million times globally. Here's a brief retrospective of the Home Screen from v1.0 to v5.0 as the app, and the platform came into maturity.
When the first version of the app was released in 2010, the Home Screen was simply a dashboard of buttons leading to the app's primary destinations. Back then, the mobile experience relied entirely on APIs that were not optimized for mobile, so the app was limited to basic functionality.
Remember when Nexus devices had scroll-balls that let you tab and click on page elements? If you used eBay on one of those devices, you mostly used it to check on the status of items you interacted with on the website.
To make mobile more useful on the go, we added links to browse Daily deals and Messages.
The Home Screen got updated icons and larger buttons. We actually went through the entire app and improved the touch targets by increasing button sizes. The Android platform had little to no design guidelines, but I remember there being a lot of grey, bevelled default styles and thick orange borders to signify active fields.
Usage tracking was primitive by today's standards, but our assumption was that Search is the most important function in the app. Previously, you had to tap the Search icon to activate the search bar, v1.3 featured a persistent native search bar allowing content to scroll beneath.
RedLaser was acquired in June 2010, and integrated into the apps for barcode scanning in this release.
iPhone apps were leading mobile app design trends. Do you remember when every app's Home Screen was a list navigation with chevrons?
We cleaned up the dashboard of buttons by nesting most of them within "My eBay." This aligned the application architecture more closely with the website experience. The app became more engaging with "Saved Searches" and "New item found" notifications. We also added a new destination for your user profile, where you could read your reviews and feedback.
The biggest feature in 1.5 was the ability to list and sell items, using the phone's camera to add images (far out!)
Customers were more worried about security at this time, so we had a big "Sign Out" button at the bottom of the screen.
Primary destinations were given more prominence with big blue buttons. We added "Favorite sellers" and "Reminders." We minimized the logo to make better use of the screen real estate. List view styling and iconography was updated, and we got better at grouping similar destinations together. We added in-app badging to indicate unread status, significantly increasing traffic to those destinations.
Forgotten passwords was the biggest source of abandoned sessions, so we wanted to keep people logged in. To do this, we moved "Sign out" into the profile. Customers complained at first, but eventually became comfortable with staying logged in. With login friction removed, session frequency and app traffic improved significantly.
This was the first release where I was a Product Manager.
This release finally got a proper settings page, along with the ability to toggle individual notification preferences. The "eBay Buyer Protection" badge was added in the previous version as a trust indicator. In this version, tapping it launched a native webview where you could view more policy details.
We replaced the background gradient with flat white, updated list styling and iconography, and added some white space to let it breath a little. At this point in time, Android had deemed iOS's right-facing carets a non-platform pattern, so we removed those from each cell with no adverse effects to usability, engagement or user comprehension.
We added "Motors," a complete vertical experience for car enthusiasts. Unfortunately, it included a bug that logged two tokens per session, and brought down eBay servers for 11 hours in peak shopping season. My boss was on vacation when it happened, leaving me in charge. It was terrifying.
The logo and search bar moved up to the header. Search instances dropped at first, but picked back up after users became accustomed to its new location.
We needed to give Motors a top spot, so Category Browse was pushed down into the navigation list. Customers liked browsing categories, so moving it down proved to be a poor decision. App reviews are always a great way to gauge reactions to major app changes.
We adding support for more countries, allowing users to toggle between them to browse items from around the world. This is an especially important use case for people who want items that aren't available where they live.
It's September 2012, and eBay got a new logo. All of our products needed to align with the new brand at the same time.
We added a placement for dynamic promotional banners, and built an entire system called Real Time Messaging that let internal teams build and rank content in a configurable backend tool.
We added support for Shopping Cart, updated the style guide with a new color palette and more modern section design.
Notice the search bar was removed from the header, replaced with a Search icon resulting in a 23% drop in search sessions. It took us a while to see the results, but it was a big problem. Nobody was pleased.
This was the first release with support for tablet layouts, though most screens weren't "tablet optimized." They were mobile designs that stretched to fill the available screen size.
We fixed the search issue by adding a big white "search bar" on the home screen beneath the header. It was actually just a big button that opened search.
On any other global destination in the app, search was accessible via an icon in the header. We added an overflow menu to the header for global access to secondary functions like "refresh" and "sign out."
We made our first step into featured content on the home screen with a "Recently viewed items" carousel.
Continuing the move towards a content-forward home screen, we added "My Feed" link, which launched the mobile-web version of your feed in a webview. Your feed is an endless stream of new items matching your saved searches and sellers, and similar items.
A splash of color below the fold differentiated Feed, Motors, and Deals. We moved the profile link to the bottom of the screen, grouping it with Settings.
This outraged some of our most engaged users: sellers who liked to come back to the app multiple times a day to view new reviews, messages, and buyer feedback they've received. They really didn't like having a scroll a little bit to get to their profile.
Sellers are just one half of the global marketplace, so we needed to balance their needs with those of the buyers, who rarely visited the profile.
eBay and PayPal split, requiring a big legal banner indicating our new user agreement. Instead of placing a big popup in your way when you first launch the new version, we opted for a passive notification banner that could be dismissed manually, or would otherwise dismiss itself automatically after 5 impressions.
We also switched to a light grey header, and added a "Notifications" icon in the header, allowing you to access current and past item notifications.
In this release, "Reminders," previously beneath "Recently Viewed Items," was moved into the Notifications destination. As usual, it took a bit of time for users to learn where they went, but they were similar enough to Notifications that it was easy for users to accommodate.
Our first attempt at a completely content-forward experience, and also an attempt at directly aligning the iOS and Android experiences. While the release did contain many compelling improvements, inadequate onboarding left users to fend for themselves in the new design. The non native nature of the navigation system proved to be quite confusing to both iOS and Android users. The home screen was now packed with content, but the content lacked personalization or relevancy so it came across as noise to our very vocal user base. The reviews were mixed.
This release was a gigantic leap forward in unification and collaboration across the organization, and a huge learning opportunity for the company as it scrambled to move the products back in the right direction.
The app finally looked and felt like a fully native Android app. Bold color and a higher focus on relevance and immediacy of home screen content.
More Material Design was introduced, including a native Android navigation drawer. The blue "pills" provide shortcuts to your most frequented destinations. As more links are added to it, it becomes a scrolling carousel.
Platform-specific navigation, and a return to bold color choices, branded iconography and playful graphical style, hinting back to the more expressive personality found in the early days of eBay.
By this release, I was on my way to new adventures in e-commerce, joining WalmartLabs as a Senior UX Architect in early 2016.