Returns on eBay

Visual + UI/UX Design

User feedback, data and competitive analysis suggests that it's time for eBay to revamp its returns flow. Plagued by usability issues, inconsistent ux patterns, poor visual design, long wait times, too much information and confusion for the user, I have been working on envisaging the future of returns for eBay.

Problem Overview

When it comes to the post-transaction experience, consumers have high expectations and often their expectations are not met. Returns is a strong example of this and where this case study focuses.

Returns at eBay received no funding prior to me joining the team, so the goal was to provide an enhanced version of the old returns flow, in addition to a future vision of returns (1-3 year plan) to receive funding and support from multiple teams and executives within eBay. Overall, returns costs eBay over 100 million a year in customer service calls, and from a UX/UI perspective, several problems exist leading to escalations, incomplete returns, upset customers and a lack of trust in eBay.

Solution Overview

Imagine a returns experience that understands your needs as a user and is one fluid experience. While the situation of returning an item is still frustrating, with a minimized cognitive load, clear next steps and an updated design, making a return on eBay is now clear, simple and convenient.

The Process


Summarizing the Problem

1. User Expectations

Return options are not built into eBay's mWeb experience. There are no instructions on where to go to submit a return request and no instruction on where to go to conduct a return in general.

2. Users Expect Speed

Speed can be defined in a few ways - time in process and time on task. eBay currently garners very little assurance in how quick either works for users. A typical eBay returns process can be anywhere from 15-60 days.

3. Lack of Transparency

"Can I even return this?" is often the question in the eBay experience. If so, "do I have to pay for it?" These uncertainties and lack of clarity around this keeps users from buying as they would with eBay competitors.

4. Cognitive Overload

eBay communicates too much information to buyers all the time, putting a heavy cognitive load on users - potentially confusing them in an already complex process.

5. Not Enough Consistency

ReBay does not meet the mark in consistency when looking at visuals, interactions, copy and CTAs, thus leading to poor usability.

What users liked

Guidance, Clarity of Info, Reduced cognitive load, Visuals/Colors.

What users wanted to see

More intuitive, Ability to add dates to calendar, Flat design, Improved timeline/progress indicator.


While this returns flow improves a user’s understanding of the information being presented to them, in addition to being more visually appealing than the current design, we need to focus on a more intuitive experience that effortlessly guides users through making a return on eBay.

What users liked

Main actions along bottom, Feels more natural/easy to use, “Gives me more choice as a user”, Feels on brand, clean design.

What users wanted to see

Could have improved hierarchy, Focus more on the timeline, More guidance and messaging, Think about the whole experience.


This prototype is moving in the right direction as it has improved navigation, on-brand visuals, more choice for users and is more intuitive. However, users wanted a better layout, more guidance and an end-to-end experience.

The Solution

Design Decisions


New company style guide, Hierarchy of info through size, color and layout of elements, Kept image of item being returned, Visuals/Colors offer delight, Different sizes, colors and styles (Importance of info, readability).


Guidance throughout the return, Ease of entry into a return, 1 main action per screen, User control.


Easily perform important tasks, Decrease number of actions, Considering multiple holds.

Business Challenges

One of the main focus areas of the redesign was challening wait times. eBay currently garners very little assurance in how quick the returns process will be for users. A typical eBay returns process can be 15+ days, and all the way up to a 60 day maximum. Users see no guarantee of times when knowing control rests in the hands of sellers whims on when to process their request and refund. As a team, we recommended changing these wait times. However, given the time and level of effort this would take, managers were not willing to begin the process of changing eBay policies on wait times.

This put the design team to a hault because of an almost month long debate about this challenge. The decision was to adjust the perceived wait time for the users through messaging and notifications. Currently, users express a need for more communication from eBay and the other user involved in the transaction. By designing messaging and notifications, in addition to determing when and why users will see them, our goal was to reduce the amount of time-based friction users were experiencing. However, this also meant that we needed to revisit certain parts of our user flows to account for this change. Please find additional stakeholder feedback below.

Takeaways + What Would I Change?

Overall, this project was a success in a number of ways. Prior to joining the team, eBay provided no funding to redesigning the returns experience because they felt that it was not a top priority to dedicate money and resources towards. Once I joined the team, our main priority for the first few months was creating a compelling case for redesigning and rethinking the returns experience on eBay. Through several early rounds of user research, wireframing, mockups, prototypes and presentations, we received full support and funding from leadership to dive deeper into creating a completely new returns experience.

The main parts I would change involve our approach and process. Our team took a different approach to this redesign, and its one that I believe ultimately set us back. Instead of having fluid collaboration and frequent communication, the 4 designers separated and designed on our own. We would come together a couple times a week to share ideas and brainstorm to further narrow our ideas down to a small list; however, this took much more time and effort and we continued to find that we were not always aligned in our approach and thinking. This was reflected in several presentations that we gave to executives and managers (specifically early on).

In addition, one of our main solutions involved changing the wait times on eBay. We quickly found out that eBay was unable to change policies within our timeframe. This prolonged our design process because we were waiting for feedback on this change of policy ask that we requested. Another difficulty we ran into was that different teams own different parts of the UI. Therefore, some solutions we recommended were rejected because of team cost, time and team ownership. A final aspect of this project I would change is having each designer own their design completed, including prototypes. I was responsible for all prototypes in this project, and this includes the other designers mockups. There were several instances where I prototyped 6-8 different user paths in a couple of hours before a deadline because we were not all on track for a completion time and date. There was also some confusion at times when figuring out which screen went where in the flow. Better naming conventions and a proper handoff would have solved this challenge.