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Ebay on IE8

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Jonathan Gabbai, Global Innovations Manager in Ebay, and Raj Ramabadran, Microsoft Platform Strategy Advisor, join me at MIX to talk about the new features of Ebay.com designed for Internet Explorer 8.
In the first part of the interview Jonathan will show us the Ebay Web Slices, Accelerator and Visual Search Provider, explaining how the team built them based on users feedbacks.
In the second part of the interview he will talk about the new IE8 Ebay Silverlight Sidebar, an explorer bar - built entirely with Silverlight - that offers many features to Ebay "pro-users".

For developer resources, you can start from here.

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  • BasBas It finds lightbulbs.
    On visual search: it only works if you have the right search engine installed, and have it selected. So before you can visual-search eBay you need to remember that you have to click the down-arrow and select eBay first, and then type. If you've already typed something, it'll immediately search eBay for whatever was in the search box, so you won't see the visual results. Worse, if you've selected a search engine in the search box, the focus isn't set to the search box, so you can't type your search query right away (which, let's face it, is the very next thing you'll need to do). You first need to remember to click back in the search box, and then type. There's also no convenient keyboard shortcut to switch search engines in IE. It's cumbersome and annoying, and while I have three search engines installed that support visual search, I never use any of them because I've navigated to the website and entered a search query faster than when I have to click my way through IE's search box.

    Personally, I think it'd be a lot better if it just showed five or so visual search suggestions of whatever engine you have selected, and then two more for each other engine you have installed. The screen real estate is there, why not use it?

    The web slices thing sounded great ever since I heard about it in the first IE8 beta, I just think it's preposterous that I have to navigate to a special site to use it. These are computers we're talking about, they're supposed to do stuff for us, not the other way around. Why do I have to rememember to do something and then take special action? Why can't the website or browser themselves figure out that I'm using IE8 and that they can give me special features like web slices?

    I hope web slices actually become part of the main website in a couple of weeks like Jonathan Gabbai said, and that they're bringing them to special attention, because the way it is currently I doubt you're going to reach anyone with it.

    Also:


    Why that space? You can't put the favorites bar any closer to the toolbar. Why not? Why can't that star be next to the home button, and have all the web slices and favorites and stuff you're subscribed to appear to the left of that star?

    Why are all these interesting features being made so hard to actually use?

    The silverlight sidebar looks interesting. I don't think I'm a frequent enough eBay user to actually use it (I'd rather use the web slices for the one or two items I occasionally bid on), but it's interesting that web sites are finally starting to think beyond HTML and more towards providing actual rich applications delivered through the web.
  • Giorgio Sardogioker84 Sr. Director (Microsoft Corp)
    Hi Bas,

    thanks for the feedbacks!

    Web slices: they will be live on the www.ebay.com site very soon! I know Ebay is pushing an update to their site at the same time I'm writing this post, and it will take a few hours/days to propagate across all the web servers. 

    Visual Search: the way the visual search provider has been designed is:
    • You browse to a website (let's say, ebay.com)
    • IE8 discover that an open search descriptor is available, and highlights the dropdown arrow
    • The user click on "Add search provider->NameOfTheProvider". From this point, the search provider will be always available, regardless where the user is.
    • If the user returns to the website, or browser to another website...the ebay search provider is still in his providers list, allowing him to quickly perform searches with any provider at any time.

    During the Beta and RC period we run many usability labs, and what we found out is that users like to have and use more than 1 search provider; to switch quickly from one to another, you can type your search keyword, and then with the mouse click on the other search provider icons. This will allow you to write once your query, and run it across different search providers. Sharon, our IE PM for Visual Search, has written an interesting post on the IE blog. Finally, in order to preserve users customization, we allow you to set your default search provider (the one with the focus by default); you can change this setting going to "Manage Search Providers".

    Favorites bar: that "gap" is the minimum amount of space needed to show a web slice icon or favorite link title. Being able to flip it to the other side is a good feedback; to be honest we never heard this request before, but I will bring this feedback to the IE Team.

    Please keep posting your feedbacks!
    Giorgio

  • BasBas It finds lightbulbs.
    Hi Giorgio, thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Web slices: they will be live on the www.ebay.com site very soon! I know Ebay is pushing an update to their site at the same time I'm writing this post, and it will take a few hours/days to propagate across all the web servers. 


    Perfect. I just checked, and it's indeed working on the main site. I like the green border and icon that appar when you hover over a search result: hopefully that'll be discoverable enough for people to notice and click the button, and learn what web slices do.

    The only thing I thought was a shame was that it only seems to work in search results: on the item's page itself, I couldn't find an obvious way to add a webslice for the item. The green icon on the toolbar didn't light up either, so apparently there is none on item pages. That's too bad, because if I search for an item, and then check out the item's page to check the description and shipping rates, for instance, I have to go back to the search results, find the item I just clicked in he list, and add it as a web slice. That seems pretty cumbersome to me. I haven't actually bid on anything, so maybe a web slice appears once you bid on an item so you can track it easily, but just having one on the page itself would seem like a useful thing to have, too.


    Favorites bar: that "gap" is the minimum amount of space needed to show a web slice icon or favorite link title. Being able to flip it to the other side is a good feedback; to be honest we never heard this request before, but I will bring this feedback to the IE Team.


    I guess what I really want is a favorites bar that sizes automatically depending on the amount of items in it. If you only use webslics for stuff like ebay, where you want to track an item and then remove the web slice once the auction is over, the amount of web slice icons on your favorites bar will vary. But because it's a fixed size, you'll always have to reserve space for a number of icons, even if you're not watching any auctios. That space is taken away from your tabs, which you use more often. If the favorites bar autosized, it's only take up a small amount of space when you have 0, 1 or 2 icons on it, and your tabs would have the rest of the space. If you're watching a lot of auctions and have many icons, the favorites bar would grow and your tabs would move over. Maybe you could even set a maximum amount of items on the favorites bar, like 10. Add up to 10 icons and it'll grow larger dynamically, but any more will appear in the overflow area under the chevron.


    Now I have to do all that stuff manually. If I add three web slices for three auctions, for instance, I'll have to unlock the toolbars, drag the favorites bar to the left so that there'll be room for the three web slice icons, and lock the tool bars again. Then, when the auction is over, and I remove the web slice icons, I'll have a large empty favorites bar, so I have to unlock the tool bars again, drag the favorites bar back to its smaller size, and lock the toolbars again. A dynamically growing favorites bar would do all this stuff for me, and would make using web slices a lot easier.
  • Giorgio Sardogioker84 Sr. Director (Microsoft Corp)
    Thanks Bas, this is helpful. Watch out the Ebay site for updates....more to come soon Wink

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