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June 12, 2011

Work Left To Do

A number of oddities that diminish the functionality of eBay and PayPal have hit me lately. PayPal has the honour of the biggest set and worst errors.

First, I noticed that PayPal sends me notifications in the language of the originating party, not in my language of choice. I've received emails in languages I don't understand at all and have nearly confused them as spam. Emails directly originated from PayPal, like a terms of service change notification, often arrive in French or French then English. None of this really makes sense, my account is set for English and that is the language all notifications should be sent to me in.

The next set of issues is all about the differences between the website, the emails and the iPhone app, all of which I look at. Between these interfaces there are some pretty substantial differences that add confusion and misunderstanding. The name of the sender or recipient listed is not uniform, bouncing between what I believe is the "Display Name", a contact name or a contact email. It can be pretty confusing and alarming when seeing some of the names and even more confusing as they change as you switch interfaces. Not only do the names change, but so do the amount of transactions, selectively including or excluding fees and extras. Further to that, the account balance also is presented differently depending on the interface. In some cases the balance is the sum total of all currency balances converted to your default currency, sometimes it is just the balance of your default currency.

Now in the iPhone app, add another layer of confusion, the app will frequently present stale, cached information and not the current list of transactions, even though it appears it has refreshed or you have re-logged in. It is especially confusing as you receive a notification but then can't find the transaction in the app.

I just found another transaction to add to the pile. I got notification of a payment, the email tells me it's there and I've received it. Doubling checking on the website, it says the payment is "pending". That is nice and misleading. Long ago I made it a point to double check everything I get from Paypal to make sure that I'm getting the right amount and that I don't have a spoofed email.

Now for eBay. I've long maintained that eBay keeps changing their website for the worse, each time it changes. From an end user point of view, it often seems untested and non-functional. Stuff gets removed, moved, broken and just gets more complex. eBay also suffers from similar issues maintaining dissimilar interfaces, namely the standard website, the mobile website and the iPhone app. It seems that because I use ebay.ca by default as I'm from Canada, I'm not allowed to actually make payments on auctions I win from the iPhone app. Ok fine, over to the website, and it defaults to showing the mobile version. No problem, proceed into payments and I'm scratching my head as it is showing me the wrong total and about to charge me more than is owed. On other auctions it leads to an endless string of errors. So I force it back to the full website and I'm off again.

Now eBay and PayPal aren't alone in issues like this. It seems like standard business practice now and one Google has long used. Get to market first with 80% functionality. It gets customers up and running fast and grows rapidly. But as time goes on, if you don't fix the remaining issues and add the missing functionality, it alienates the users and does nothing to support loyalty.


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