Design for Mobile: The One Billion Dollar iPhone App

by Luke Wroblewski September 23, 2010

In her talk on Designing a billion dollar user experience at Design for Mobile in Chicago IL, Karlyn Neel talked about eBay's success in mobile e-commerce and provided a number of tips for creating great transactional mobile applications. Here's my notes from her talk:

  • eBay’s core iPhone app had 10 million downloads and $600M in first year sales. It is projected to have $1.5 to 2B in sales in 2010.
  • eBay accounts for 50% of mobile e-commerce in the United States. 70% of that comes from the iPhone. eBay has mobile commerce solutions in more than 190 countries and eight languages. They are on iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, and mobile Web.
  • Total commerce: $3B in mobile apps, $248B in digital content $600B online good, $5T in offline retail
  • Only 12% of top 500 Internet retailers have mobile optimized Web sites. 7% have mobile apps; and only 2% have apps with checkout features.
  • How has eBay been able to sell that much on mobile? They were very early to the mobile space. They’ve created a relevant (big user need and opportunity) and really focused user experience.
  • eBay is the largest marketplace in the World. How can it empower the user when they are out and about?
  • Core value of the eBay mobile app: people want deals and now have the ultimate tool in their hands on location to get them. The app allows them to do comparison shopping regardless of their location. Should I buy now? Or can I get a better deal elsewhere?
  • Mobile commerce allows people to buy when inspiration strikes. As a result, mobile helps prevent opportunities from being lost.
  • Keep it simple is quite hard to do in big companies. Fight complexity & friction –make hard choices. Challenge yourself –how can you make things easier?
  • Reduce and organize your app to focus on one meaningful idea. Don’t do mini-versions of your websites or compliment your Web experience. Bring value to mobile contexts. Define and limit your IA = make hard choices and exercise constraint.
  • Mobile = quick short tasks. Desktop = high fidelity, longer tasks.
  • Just for release one –eBay originally had a lot of uses cases. They were able to narrow it down to three: can i get this item cheaper; I want to bid/rebid at last minute; I want to check status on the go.
  • These use cases set up the information architecture of the eBay iPhone app: search, my eBay, home.
  • Get out of the usability lab and test in the real world. eBay failed to load content on their app in the back of Fry’s electronics store. This told them they needed to optimize their APIs.
  • Shopping is emotional –inspire with pictures, limited quantities, and engagement with the environment.
  • People want to upload things: collect what they want then determine what to buy.
  • The more products people look at in a session, the more likely they are to buy.
  • Big juicy buttons inspire people to buy. When you are ready to buy, it should be easy. Big transactional buttons are good way to signal purchase-ability.
  • As designers, you are all ambassadors for the customer –Keeping it simple requires you to often push people to the point they are uncomfortable.