A special version of Macromedia's Contribute Web publishing desktop application is designed to automate and simplify the creation and modification of EBay Stores.
Contribute 3 for EBay will allow EBay Store owners to create, update, and customize their stores' content and design through a visual editing interface designed for nontechnical users, says Erik Larson, director of product management at San Francisco-based Macromedia. At EBay Stores, EBay users may feature the products they have for sale on the giant auction site in an online storefront. Contribute 3 was developed by WebAssist.com, a creator of extensions for Macromedia products.
Contribute 3 for EBay requires no programming skills and leads users through step-by-step wizards for designing an EBay Store's logos, images, product categories, and product search, among other things. The product features about 800 templates for EBay Store pages.
WebAssist.com used the EBay API (application programming interface) to create this special version of Contribute. The EBay API lets developers link applications directly with the EBay database through XML. With the EBay API, developers can create EBay applications that feature a custom interface, special functions, and operations beyond the regular EBay interface.
An analyst sees the product fulfilling a need for a tool to help EBay Store owners improve the look of their stores.
"This has the potential to be a fairly significant product, because one of the central issues for the EBay Store [owners] is a strong interest in selling products online but a lack of awareness about how Web page design actually works," says Eric Peterson, a Jupiter Research analyst. "What you end up with is lots of things to buy and sell, but poorly presented in the Web pages. The average EBay seller would benefit dramatically from the Contribute product."
And Ken Mullinax, who runs two EBay Stores with his wife from Fort Smith, Arkansas, has been beta-testing the product and finds that it lets him perform certain Web publishing tasks more quickly and do things he didn't know how to do manually, such as featuring dynamically changing information regarding the status of active bids. "It's very useful, especially for people who don't really know anything about making Web pages or about HTML," he says.
One thing Macromedia should fix as soon as possible is matching its color themes with those provided by EBay, Mullinax says. "My store's color theme is green, and the greens they offer [in Contribute 3 for EBay] don't match, so I had to go in after I made the page with their product and manually change all that code," he says.
Mullinax reported the issue to Macromedia and got an e-mail response saying they realized it would be a very good idea to match the color themes of the product with the color themes of EBay Stores; but as of last week, the issue hadn't been addressed in the latest beta version, Mullinax says. "Other than that, it's fabulous," he says.
Contribute 3 for EBay is slated to ship in mid-November. It will cost $99 for EBay Store owners and will be available at the Macromedia Online store. It will also be available as a free upgrade for existing Contribute 3 customers as a download from the WebAssist Web site.
WebAssist is developing a similar EBay extension to Macromedia's Dreamweaver, an application for building sophisticated Web sites and online applications. That Dreamweaver extension also will be available in mid-November, directly from WebAssist, for less than $200, a Macromedia spokesman says.