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Is it time to ditch HTML templates in eBay UK listings?

By Dan Wilson July 22, 2014 - 7:45 am

Recently we noted that eBay UK’s off-the-peg HTML designs, called Listing Designer, were going up in price and it got me thinking.

Rather like cigarettes or petrol, when the government puts up the price, it generally means it wants you to use them less.

And so it goes with eBay too. If they up the fee, they want you to do it less frequently. But they don’t want to lose the money. I wonder how much they make from Listing Designer? Quite a tidy sum, I imagine.

So when eBay put up the money to use Listing Designer my assumption was this. They like the cash but it doesn’t do you any good as a seller if you do use them. They’re cautiously edging towards removal but too coy to lose the cash just yet.

Compare the behaviour with images. It’s only recently that eBay made a dozen photos per listing free for all. It improved the buyer experience, makes great sense for mobile shoppers but the accountants liked the extra bunce eBay got by “taxing” multiple images until the business case for multiple images over-ruled them.

And it all speaks to a discussion that plenty of eBay watchers have been having all year. Is it worth having fancy HTML templates in your eBay listings at all?

There has been discussion as to whether eBay’s new search engine Cassini actually demotes listings with HTML templates.

The increasing use of mobile plays a part and the templates don’t often translate to being viewed on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Plenty of people take a view but I’m not sure and eBay haven’t made a definitive statement. But my instinct is that it’s better now to move away from using a fancy HTML design in your listings.

Anyone who gives a definitive answer is being disingenuous but here’s my reasoning:

Firstly, HTML templates may well confuse Cassini search if you have too much info in the field so stripping it down to the basics (text only) really does make sense.

Secondly, HTML templates don’t translate to mobile and that could well equal as much as 45% of eBay sales these days. Make sure your listings are mobile-sexy.

Thirdly, it’s just another job. Stripping out extraneous tasks such as HTML templates is a good way to save time and effort.

You will doubtless have a perspective and I’d like to hear your ideas but my advice is that black text on a white background is the best strategy now for eBay item descriptions.

  • DBL
    3 years ago

    Couldn’t agree more, and the new eBay shop fronts are mobile gorgeous, they adapt to every mobile browser I’ve viewed whether landscape or portrait. Big and bold and kinda beautiful in their simplicity.

    Best of all they’re FREE!

    Personally I like text descriptions, I can see them without any scrolling, some don’t work at all. I’m surprised people don’t check their templates and shop fronts on mobile. With the figures of nearly 45% touched by mobile it’s a good idea to check yours.

  • Ross
    3 years ago

    Agreed. I only noticed a couple of months ago that listing designer was still there, I was staggered they wanted anyone to pay for it. The fact that they haven’t updated designs in years is an indication of how they neglect certain areas. The designs listed as “New” must be pushing ten years old.

  • 3 years ago

    It’s also worth noting that some of the professional eBay listing designers do have mobile friendly versions but sadly not all of their customers use them….

  • 3 years ago

    I have tried listing with just text and it had the opposite effect and sales for that item were poor until I revised it to our normal template. Admittedly it was only one listing. Maybe our HTML template is one of the better ones when it comes to Cassini compatibility? At the moment I wouldn’t dare change all my listings over to plain text.

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    The answer is quite simple really – find a happy medium. A well coded responsive design should use very little code anyway, but it still look much more appealing than text only, regardless of which device is being used to view the item.

  • Tony C
    3 years ago

    After looking very carefully, I have begun to remove Listing Designer from my listings. However, I am still creating my adverts using HTML, because I am embedding images (logos, screenshots and so on) in the ads, and these are remotely hosted off eBay. Also I have put lots of care into each ad and I am loath to simply take them down – but I am willing to change them if it’s easy enough to do.

    So, my question is, how do I get my hand-coded HTML adverts to look good on mobile devices? Any advice, please?

    • Mark
      3 years ago

      You can’t use media queries like you can on a standard website (i.e. you can’t for example make it do X on a mobile, Y on a tablet and Z on a desktop) but you can use percentages for your sizes, and specified minimum/maximum widths.

      I used a free tutorial from Liz Hitchins’ blog (http://kidsontalks.com/tag/responsive-ebay-design/) to produce ours. If CSS is above your remit, Liz will be happy to help you out (for a fee, obv)

  • JustAnEbayer
    3 years ago

    Tony C:
    You will need to add specific rules to your CSS code, that will style the page differently depending on the width of the screen that is viewing the page (PC monitor / Laptop monitor / Tablet / Phone).

    Search online for for responsive html and css templates, it shouldn’t be difficult to find good examples.

    As far as the post itself, any company that wants to add branding and differentiate itself from their competitors will need to have a unique HTML template, just using plain text in the description will not be enough. I personally think that a unique professional template also adds credibility which translates to more confidence on the buyer’s side.

    • Tony C
      3 years ago

      Interesting ideas, folks, thank you so much for the input. Looks as if I will need to learn CSS, then; well since I taught myself HTML I think I should be able to manage. Adventure awaits! Thanks folks :)

  • Rick
    3 years ago

    It’s been clear for the last year that eBay have been trying to put more emphasis on the top half of the page – their gallery, postage options, price, buy now button etc. this looks a lot more professional. The HTML box can produce some pretty tacky descriptions and lurid colours.
    People think of ‘buying from eBay’ rather than buying from a business that sells through eBay.
    I recognised this and produced a listing that used the same style as eBays design, do it appeared to move seemlessly from the top to the description.
    For me this has worked, and I would never ever use plain text descriptions.

  • Alex
    3 years ago

    Never saw any point in them as buyers only see them if they actually click on your listing. Once they are viewing your item I can’t see a fancy surround making any difference (except for perhaps slowing the page loading or not displaying properly on some devices/browsers).

    Buyers want clear info on item details, specs, condition, applications, benefits, etc, and good photos.

    It is your price, listing title and photos that attract buyers and gives you the best edge over competition. Listing details aid search results. Listing templates and text within only enter the equation after a buyer has clicked on your item.

    IMO templates give no benefit.

  • 3 years ago

    Changed three weeks ago from a fully ‘designed’ ebay page and shop, to the standard ebay layout with a bit of code to structure the text and make it flow a little better. It’s now cleaner faster and easier on all devices. I very much agree, cut down on the frilly bits and ‘let the dog see the rabbit’

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