To be risque or discreet? That is the question owners of two adult auction sites have had to contend with in the development of their Web-based businesses.
Relatively new entrant to the adult auction arena, PRONBay.com, has developed its site to be sleek, user friendly and purposely plain.
"People don't want to be 'sprung' looking at adult products on the Internet", said Paul Sera, chief designer of the adult auctions site. Rather, they want to navigate through the material under the cover of an eBay-style set up that is easy on the eyes.
"It's not a hardcore porn site, that's why the name was changed to PRONBay instead of pornbay. If someone [that is not the PRONBay surfer] is to look up their tracks and see PRONBay in the history they would think nothing of it. If they saw pornbay they would realise its something a bit more than that".
Co-founder of SexyBay.com, Susanne Choppin, holds a different view. An entire page on her adult auction Web site is devoted to fetishes for those who actually get a thrill from the risk of exposure.
"It takes a lot to offend me, having been in the industry for a long time," she said. "I know the curiosity is there and people are just looking for that little bit more to enhance their lives".
SexyBay.com attempts to fuse the structure of an auction site with a community look and feel. Graphic photos adorn most pages against a wash of scarlet colour tones. There are forums and links to other adult services to allow the "industry to strut their stuff and show what's available", Choppin said.
PRONBay.com, however, is more modern and product-focused which is reflected in the muted colour palette and scarcity of suggestive imagery. The users signing up to sell items are predominantly businesses that have leveraged the site as an advertising forum. Sera thinks this is because it is "an easy way for them to sell products allowing in maximum exposure".
The site, launched in December, was built using PHP and runs on an Apache Web server. It is hosted in the USA for better bandwidth economics.
To generate interest in PRONBay.com, heavy advertising on Web sites and sharing hard links with other adult sites have ensured traffic expectations are currently being met. It is also dangling a special deal before new users giving $150 credit per sign up. This equates to roughly 300 auctions for free where a standard auction is around 50 cents.
Both Web sites have utilised the basic eBay concept of an auction Web site and tailored it to the adult market, for which eBay has little tolerance.
Yet regardless of whether a risque or discreet tactic is used, based on the small number of items for sale on their sites both SexyBay and PRONBay have so far appeared to have made only a light footprint in the market for adult goods.