RISC World

eBay Listings that Suck

When you're putting a listing together for eBay, it helps to put some thought into the presentation of what you're listing. After all, it is an advert and you're looking for people to spend their money. David Bradforth, with help from Roland Waddilove, highlights some things you should never do in an eBay listing if you wish to successfully sell them.

How do you rate your web design skills? Do you spend many an hour fiddling with HTMLEdit to get the perfect result, only to be disappointed with what appears on the screen and throw it all away? Are you up to date with the latest HTML code that will allow you to add extreme special effects to your listings? Do you know the secrets behind image editing that will ensure that everything always looks at its best? Will I stop talking and just got on with the article?

Whether you consider yourself a web designer or not, if you're using eBay you're designing a web page with each listing you place. Granted you don't own the site, and you're only designing the little bit between the eBay header and footer; but your aim is simple each time. To make sure that your listings stick out to potential purchasers for the right reasons; not because of the vastly irrelevant content but because of the qualities the product you're offering has.

In this article we'll take a look at some of the most basic design do's and don'ts with the aim of improving your auction listings. We make recommendations on RISC OS applications to use to get everything looking perfect, and provide some examples of poorly designed eBay listings. If our advice helps you out, do please remember to send the commission cheque to RISC World for the attention of 'eBay Advisor'.

Size Matters

Whereas many users in the big wide world have now upgraded to a broadband connection there are some, particularly in the RISC OS world, still using dial up connections (some seem to use a tin can and a bit of string - ED). This is for various reasons - perhaps the Internet is used infrequently, not justifying a monthly subscription or due to location of their computer geographically not supporting an ADSL line. If you create an auction page that is only suitable for use by broadband users, perhaps due to the number of images, you are turning away a number of potential customers who could otherwise be bidding on your items.

There are many examples on eBay at any one time. An antique clock contained a rather impressive 3Mb of pictures and other data. Look at this from the perspective of a dial up user. With a good connection you can download a Megabyte in five minutes meaning that it could take around a quarter of an hour for the page to display. If a bidder has logged on to attempt to make a bid in the final minutes of the auction that really isn't going to help - even with an automated software solution doing the bidding.

Keep the size of all page elements under 1Mb (or less - the smaller the better). You can resize images using PhotoDesk or ProArtisan 24 easily enough, while still retaining the format necessary for uploading. We'd suggest using JPEG photographs when adding illustrations to an eBay auction. The JPEG format is universal and unlikely to cause any problems on any computer.

Check your image

Digital cameras are great for taking photos of items to sell online, and it takes minutes to shoot and download photography to the computer. Although an image may look perfect when viewed on the computer screen, you'll need to ask whether they're suitable for use on an auction page. Always use a JPEG file format - as we mentioned earlier this is universal but also highly compressed to ensure a quick download.

Using a huge picture is unlikely to help your sales - with people having to wait for the image to download, they'll most likely give up and look elsewhere.

We discovered an auction selling a cream leather sofa and on the page was a large picture of the item itself. The image however was 987x1065 pixels in size and hence would not fit within the browser window of most computer users. Dialup users will hence wait about four minutes for the file to download, ending up rather irritated. If you resize an image (typically halving the height and width) you'll save a considerable amount of space and hence the file will load quicker.

If you take a look at the photos on auction sites, it's clear that some people have problems with them. Some are fuzzy, with distracting backgrounds whereas others are not actual photos of the items for sale. The quality of your photography will affect the confidence a buyer has in doing business with you. Take the time to take multiple shots of your products, and choose the best - this is an advertisement so you do want the best result to feature rather than just the first one to appear on your computer.


It's not just images that cause problems. Modern web design software can position elements on a page using absolute values rather than just relative values. If you want to include a heading, for example, you can simply enter <H1> to define it. The Web browser then places it on the page following the previous text or image.

Changing styles with HTML can cause display issues... or just make the text rather difficult to read.

If you copy this code from a Web page designer like HTMLEdit and insert it into your auction page, all sorts of problems occur. The reason is that eBay inserts a lot of other information, such as its logo, menu, back button, heading, auction details, and so on. You can't be sure how much space these will take, so if you position something absolutely, it may end up on top of something else. The result is a mess.

You'll not run into too many difficulties if you keep the HTML simple. Some top design packages allow you to position elements on layers, make use of JavaScript and so on but these won't go down well with the auction site. In fact, eBay will kick it if you attempt to include JavaScript (or what it suspects is JavaScript) within a listing. Use tables to position text and images, and ultimately keep everything simple. The easier your listing is to read, the more people who will - and ultimately the audience is what you're looking for.

Issue two of eBay Advisor has further practical tips, and I will offer support to any RISC OS user who would like help producing the perfect eBay listing.

David Bradforth