Auction Management – Better in Every Way

For clients, and others following AuctionAnything.com or subscribed to our Newsletter, you may have noticed after seeing our recent posts that the administrative portion of the auction system is undergoing a major overhaul. Since there’s much more on the horizon, now’s a good time to take a moment and share the strategy behind our decision making.

The Administration Console (aka admin console, auction admin or just admin) is an integral part of AuctionAnything.com’s online auction software package. As a fully hosted, online auction provider, we enable clients the ability to manage the auction process via a branded website while we focus on the hosting, development and technical support aspects of the solution. Therefore, the functionality and efficiency of the admin console is critical to our client’s success and always a top priority for our development team.

From the beginning, AuctionAnything.com has integrated administrative tasks into the auction website itself. Generating reports, entering items and just about every other undertaking was performed right on the same site the customers use. However, over time, limitations arose which prompted us to pursue a better, more useful approach. So, why exactly have we created a separate portion of the website strictly for administrators and what are the associated benefits? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Implement Better Design

A distinct admin console enabled us to enhance the design and layout specifically for the administrator without worrying about how our clients setup their auction website. This allowed us to start with a “clean slate” and helped us to make substantial improvements to the underlying code which aided usability and performance. There’s a bit more to it (i.e. single page applications), but we won’t bore you with the technical details :-)

Modals

Utilize More Space

In conjunction with the new design, we now have more usable space and can utilize the full width of the browser window. This is critical since there is often a significant amount of information to manage and display. Having a separate management section allows us to leverage a full width layout even if the client wishes to restrict the width of the auction website. In addition, we can reduce scrolling since the header/logo portion of the web site isn’t present on the admin side.

Introduce Centers

“Centers” are the core components of the Admin Management Console. They divide the content, and associated functions, into intuitive groupings. For example, to perform tasks related to auction listings (e.g. create, search, bulk upload, manage, report on etc.), access them within the Auction Center. Every Center has its own button/icon prominently located at the top of each page in a fixed header for full-time, easy access.

Centers

Integrate Tabbed Content

With the introduction of Centers, our goal was to also bring consistency to the user experience. To do so, we added tab-based navigation within each Center. Most Centers include Home, Views, Totals, Search and Reports tabs. By introducing constants into the user interface, we simplified the underlying structure of system and also made it more intuitive.

Tabs

Add Themes

The added themes are more than just color schemes. They include useful controls and widgets such as date pickers, modal windows, auto-suggest menus, tabs and more. They also help lend consistency, continuity and visual appeal to the layout and navigation. This culminates in a more engaging and enjoyable user experience.

Themes

Remember Actions

Centers and tabs inherently enhance the overall navigation. However, it was paramount that recent activity be remembered to cut down on wasted time. Therefore, if the admin returns to one Center from another or the web site, the previously accessed tab will always be delivered by default. In addition, if applicable, the most recent search results will be maintained so the query does NOT need to be re-performed. This technique results in significant time savings and improved usability.

 

It’s Not All or Nothing

Adding a standalone admin console didn’t preclude us from continuing to offer many admin function within the auction website itself. In fact, we haven’t removed any inline functions. There are editing, and even bulk editing, options located right within the auction site. Some management operations can be completely performed within the website. Others tasks have links on the site which will direct the user to the new admin console.

 

What Happens to the Original Admin Menu?

The gray, admin menu at the top of the auction website will remain, and the top level links will now act as a gateway to the respective Center. The sub-menus will primarily stay the same too. However, the links will change and transition to the associated tab within the appropriate Center of the new console. In general, just think of the top level menu items in the original admin menu as Centers, and the submenus as the tabs within those Centers. It’s the same organizational hierarchy, just a little different delivery. To return to the auction website, click the “Website” button with the globe icon.

 

Are the “Old” Admin Features Still Available?

That currently depends on the feature and the related Center. Some, like the Auction Center, offer a new alternative to the still existing options. For example, the Auction Center > Create tab provides a much improved method for listing items individually. However, the original “Auctions > Enter Items > Create a Listing” menu option is still there – for now.

 

What’s Next?

A new Report Center and Member Center are on the way and scheduled to be unveiled in September. We’ll also have a few updates to the Auction and Images Centers and some additional enhancements to the Dashboard.

 

Summary

  • Better Design -> More Functional
  • Utilize Space -> More Efficient
  • Introduce Centers -> More Intuitive
  • Add Themes -> More Engaging
  • Integrate Tabs -> More Consistent
  • Remember Actions -> More Usable

 

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New Admin Dashboard Provides Improved Insight

Fresh off delivering a significant update to the Auction Center, AuctionAnything.com has released an improved administrative Dashboard (formerly identified as the “Account” menu). The update provides another major enhancement to the the re-designed Administration Console.

The Dashboard contains the following sections:

  • Home
  • Setup
  • Messages
  • Schedule
  • Work Orders
  • Settings
  • Status
Admin Management Console - Dashboard Home

Admin Management Console – Dashboard Home

 

Home

The Dashboard Home tab functions as the new, default “landing page” for admin account log-ins (Note: use the “WebSite” icon to return to the auction site). The display is designed to provide immediate insight regarding the status of the online auction. The goal is to deliver the administrator the information needed to eliminate the guesswork involved with performing the next task, and the capability to quickly survey the state of the auction system. For convenience, direct links to the respective Centers are supplied. The “smart log-in” process reports on the following elements:

  • General – system setup, event scheduling, accounting, work order status and various recommendations.
  • Help Desk – help desk requests from customers and AuctionAnything.com service responses.
  • Messages – indicators for recent, and/or un-read messages from AuctionAnything.com regarding new features, enhancements and maintenance.
  • Auctions – information related to auction listings (e.g. status, mode, reserves etc).
  • Invoicing and Payments(if applicable) – details regarding invoices, successful and unsuccessful credit card transactions and related topics.

 

Setup

The Setup Manager provides the administrator with a list of tasks to assist with setting up the online auction website. Included in this section are direct links to the associated controls, priority indicators and status tracking capabilities.

 

Messages

The Message tab includes the latest news from AuctionAnything.com. Check here for notifications pertaining to new features, system enhancements, bug fixes and scheduled maintenance.

 

Schedule

The event scheduler allows clients to post their auction schedule (i.e. event/sales). AuctionAnything.com recommends that clients who run event-based auctions provide this information for support and maintenance scheduling purposes.

 

Work Orders

Clients may use this section to view, approve and track the progress of Work Orders related to custom development projects.

 

Settings

The Settings area allows the administrator to personalize the “smart log-in” experience by showing/hiding certain alerts, notices and updates. In addition, various “lookbacks” may be set to determine what information is analyzed and displayed on the dashboard.

 

Status

The Status Manager enables the auction administrator to set the website to “Live” (i.e. available for viewing) mode once the initial system setup is completed. Also, if needed, the site many be set to a “Coming Soon” mode to prevent visitors from accessing the auction.

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Auction Search Evolves – Filter Tags Added

During the first half of 2015, AuctionAnything.com took a big step in the redesign of our auction system by making significant updates to the auction search capabilities. We added an auto-suggest “omni-bar” at the top of each page to ensure users were able to quickly locate items of interest by keyword. We included the ability to search item descriptions by keyword, and built out the Advanced Search function. We also updated the search results display to include a gallery view, implemented a Quick View option and tweaked a host of other search related options.

Our objective was to not only improve the immediate user experience, but lay the groundwork for future enhancements to the online auction software. From a technical perspective, the underlying code has been dramatically improved. This has allowed us to provide auction users a more consistent browsing experience. The search by keyword, search by category, advanced search, Watch List, Recently Viewed Items and My Bids features all now use the same templating system to deliver users visual continuity throughout the auction web site. In addition, we’re now able to more easily integrate new features into the auction software.

 

The Next Step – Search Filter Tags

We unveiled the new Quick Bid function just a day ago in our last blog post, “Quick Bid – Faster, More Convenient Bidding“. Today, we’ll provide some insight regarding Search Filter Tags. Given the recents improvements to the Advanced Search feature, it made sense to add the associated filter tags to the search results next. As seen on many e-commerce websites, “Tags” as we’ll refer to them, are useful in a number of ways.

Expanded Search Form with Tags

 

I See What You Did There

Any search (e.g. Advanced Search, Category Search, My Bids) can be updated by using the “Refine” button located above the associated search results table. The Search Form expands into view and can easily be collapsed to provide more room for the display. When collapsed, the Tags provide the user with a clear indication of which search filters were applied to the last search. This eliminates the need for the viewer to expand the Search Form to see the criteria.

Collapsed Search Form with Tags

 

Quickly Expand Search Results

All Tags contain an “X” icon which allows the respective filter to be removed from the subsequent search. When clicked, the search will re-run automatically and the new results displayed. This is a convenient way to quickly “expand” a search, and potentially show additional matches, without modifying the form and explicitly performing another search. When applicable, a “Clear All” button is provided to remove all filters.

 

Administration

Although Tags are useful for many online auction projects, the auction administrator may turn “off” the Search Filter Tags option within Tools > Settings > Search & Displays under the “Search Options” section. Please note that this feature will be “on” for all systems by default.

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Quick Bid – Faster, More Convenient Bidding

 

Overview

In an effort to improve the user experience and help auction bidders save time, AuctionAnything.com has released a major update to its auction software which enables bidders to place bids faster. The new, Quick Bid Form is triggered by a “Bid” button within the search results. The associated bid form is delivered in a modal window so the user never leaves the item list.

Example Quick Bid Form

Quick Bid Form

 

Bid Submission

Once a bid is submitted, the bid results are immediately posted back to the modal window. High bids are indicated with a congratulatory message as shown below. In addition, the bid information on the item list is updated in the background when the bid results are returned.

Example Quick Bid Form Success

Quick Bid Form - Successful Bid

 

Outbid Notice

When a posted bid is immediately “outbid” due to another bidder’s limit bid (i.e. proxy bid), a notice is delivered with the associated information. Please note that the bid form is automatically pre-filled with the next acceptable minimum bid to allow the user to instantly re-bid, if desired, with one click. However, the bidder may also counter-bid with a greater amount by editing the bid entry field.

Quick Bid Form - Outbid Notice

Quick Bid Form - Outbid Notice

 

Quick Bid highlights:

  • Fast, two-click bidding
  • Re-bid immediately with one-click
  • Minimum bid automatically pre-populated
  • Bid on multiple items more quickly
  • Bid from list and grid (gallery) views
  • Bid from any search/browse results
  • Bid from Watch List
  • Bid from Recently Viewed list
  • Bid from the new My Bids console

 

My Bids Update

The My Bids console has been updated to accommodate the new Quick Bid feature. The listing display is now the same as those of the search/browse, watch list and recently viewed items functions. This improvement offers bidders the ability to view items in a list or gallery (i.e. grid) format. My Bids also has an enhanced search form with options to search by keyword, category, bid price range and buy option (if available). As a result of this change, all bidders will benefit from a consistent item presentation throughout the My Account center.

 

Administration

If desired, the auction administrator may turn “off” the Quick Bid option within Tools > Settings > Search & Displays under the “Data Field Display” section. The Quick Bid feature is currently available on Standard Bidding (i.e. Limit Bidding) listings only. Support for other listing types may be available in the future.

Happy bidding!

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Auction Data Entry Just Got a Whole Lot Faster

With the recent release of the new Auction Center, it’s a good time to further discuss one of its main components – the single listing creator. Getting data and images into the system (and associated with each other) are two of the most time consuming aspects of managing an online auction. Therefore, it only seems logical that as auction software developers we concentrate on optimizing these processes. We’ve always been proud of the item bulk loader, and its ability to quickly import hundreds of auction records at one time. However, the “old” single listing process left something to be desired and was in need of a little TLC.

Whether you catalog, or inventory, your listing information outside of the auction system and then bulk upload it, or list items one-at-a-time directly into the system, it’s important that the process is efficient. Either way, at some point, listing data must be entered into a database, spreadsheet or web-based form individually. If you decide it’s easier to forgo an external method, and instead enter your listings right into the system, then you’re going to be very happy with our recent improvements. This software update will help make administrating your online auction a pleasant and more productive experience.

When reviewing the existing listing process, and looking for time saving opportunities, it didn’t take long to come up with a short list of enhancements from which to work. This was a great time to utilize newer technology and implement design approaches common to other services. After all, we at AuctionAnything are fans of other SaaS products which focus on simplicity and straight forward design for their admin interfaces (Basecamp and MailChimp come to mind).

So, here’s our list of enhancements to the single listing process:

  • Remembered Settings
  • Description Template
  • Rich Text Editor
  • Autocomplete Look-ups
  • Drag-n-drop Image Association
  • No Review Page
  • In Process Image Uploading

 

Remembered Settings

Although we provided this feature in the past, along with default settings under the Prefs tab, we decided to expand it to additional data fields. Depending on the type of auction, and associated schedule, there can be a fair amount of repetition in the listing process. Therefore, we figured remembering information and selections from the last listing entry would help. If you don’t need to select a category, listing type and start/end time for every listing that can result in significant time savings when inputting tens or hundreds of items.

 

Description Template

We added the ability to create a template for the description field. Not only does this save time, but it allows the listings to display in a consistent manner. Continuity is important to users. Description Template ExampleThey like to see things formatted the same from item to item and a standard template is a great way to achieve this goal. In addition, it was important to make it easy to create a description template, so we leveraged the power of the new Rich Text Editor.

 

Rich Text Editor

Yes, this improvement was long overdue. Although many users enter item descriptions using basic paragraphs, there are those who want to “extend” the description using HTML. Unfortunately, they often don’t know how, or it just takes too long to create. The new rich text editor provides this capability using familiar formatting buttons and markup options common to most document and word processing tools. It’s now easy to insert images, videos, links and special characters. You don’t need to have any coding knowledge to create tables, formatted lists or colored text.

 

Autocomplete Look-ups

Fundraising auctions often like to take advantage of the donor management module. This powerful utility allows them to leverage additional features within the system which “link” a donor(s) to their associated items. Autocomplete ExampleIn these cases, the donor can quickly be located and connected to the item by typing any portion of the donor’s contact or company name. This option works the same way for business clients who wish to associated consignors (advertisers, vendors etc) to their items.

 

Drag-n-Drop Image Association

Description Template ExampleWe can’t talk data entry without addressing the image component of the auction listing process. Historically, AuctionAnything.com recommends administrators upload images in bulk ahead of time whenever possible. This approach can result in significant time savings since both our web and FTP image uploading tools perform resizing and thumbnail creation inline. Now, if images are already uploaded to the system, they can be quickly linked with a listing using the new Image Locator and drag-n-drop association. Multiple images can be ordered as desired with the first image automatically becoming the thumbnail used in the search/browse results.

 

No Review Page

What, no review page? Yes, and here’s why. The old review page simply spit out the form data for the administrator to re-read and it was never displayed/formatted like the “final” bid form (i.e. description page) anyhow. If you really want to review all your listings, or just one for that matter, we have a moderated feature. This helpful option allows an item to be entered in a “pending” mode which makes it not visible to the site visitors. This is the perfect way to review (e.g. proofread) the listing, as it will be shown to your customers, before it is accessible. In addition, activating pending items can be easily performed in bulk or one-at-a-time.

Not only is a new listing submitted with NO review page, it is submitted without a page reload. Therefore, you NEVER leave the listing page. It’s one click and that’s it! You can even keep the last data entered or choose to reset the listing form. Plus, we’ve added…

 

In Process Image Uploading

As much as we’d like you to upload all images ahead of time, that’s not always practical. Therefore, we added an “upload images” link to the listing confirmation modal window. This allows you to immediately proceed to the Image Uploader, within the Image Center, and upload multiple images. Those images can quickly be associated with the last listing entered into the system. The approach streamlines the item entry and image upload for a single listing.

 

Conclusion

Test out the new, single listing entry method under Auctions > Auction Center > Create. Make sure to update your listing preferences using the Prefs tab first.

We realize this post is a bit long-winded. However, we feel the topic is a worthy one and the associated enhancements significant. We hope you do too. Enjoy!

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