Posts Tagged ‘e-commerce’

On Hockey Auction Sites, Speed as Important as it is on the Ice

February 20, 2010

To study how auction Web sites are organized, I skated around two hockey memorabilia sites. While their approaches differed slightly based on the type of items being sold, on balance they were similar, each combining the visually centered browsing of traditional shopping with the ability to drill down to specific items in a minimal amount of clicks, no small matter for users when the auction clock’s ticking down. In this vein, no super hi-res images, Flash animations, videos, or other resource-heavy assets that could slow users were readily apparent.

NHL Auctions

The National Hockey League hosts an auction microsite where fans and collectors can bid on each other’s memorabilia as well as on items directly from the league and individual teams. The layout of http://auction.nhl.com provides users several options for browsing or searching items, giving the impression of a busy marketplace and increasing the chances users will find something they’re interested in. For example, logos for all 30 NHL clubs are spread over two rows at the top of the microsite home page. Clicking on one of them calls up a page listing all of the items available related to that particular team.

A Washington Capitals fan, I may not be interested in any of the “Editor’s Picks” or “Hot Items” featured directly underneath the logos, which on a recent visit were dominated by Olympic-related auctions and memorabilia for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the Caps’ rivals. If this was all I saw, I might be inclined to exit the site. But seeing the familiar Caps logo in its familiar place the end of the second row, since Washington comes last in alphabetical order, made be curious: “What cool Caps stuff are people auctioning?”

Clicking through pulled up 45 items, spread out over three pages of vertical lists, including pucks and jerseys signed by the Capitals’ Olympic stars, some items for former Washington players and a few tickets to upcoming games.

The lists utilize effective interaction design, automatically putting the soonest ending auctions on top but allowing users to reverse this or reorder by price or bid count via a prominently displayed drop-down menu; tagging each listing with the number of bids, current price and a thumbnail logo and name identifying the seller; and placing the same light blue “bid now” icon used on the home page on the far right of each listing.

An autographed Alex Ovechkin stick caught my eye. Clicking “bid now” calls up the item’s individual page, which offers a few more details, including the bid increment and precisely how long until the auction ends, down to the second. Counting down in real time, in red characters no less, this promotes urgency, motivating the user to bid.

If somehow a user resists and isn’t ready to bid, he or she can get a closer look at the item by clicking “larger view,” bookmark the auction, e-mail a friend about it or ask the seller a question.

Dangle.ca

The home page for Canadian auction site Dangle.ca (http://www.dangle.ca) is less cluttered — the larger, more prominently positioned search bar is helpful — offering fewer details on featured items and slightly fewer ways to engage potential bidders. This is probably a sensible tradeoff as, judging from the dominance of rarer, older memorabilia, the site seems to be catering to more serious collectors, who are likely to appreciate a clean presentation and be motivated to browse or search on their own, often seeking very specific types of items.

My Caps have only recently become popular in Canada, thanks mostly to the electrifying play of two-time MVP Ovechkin, so, I shouldn’t count on too many Washington items on a Canadian site, especially one leaning toward older items. But let’s say I’m looking for a Caps program from 1974-75, their inaugural season.

Clicking on “books and programs” under “hockey memorabilia” in the left side navigation returns 19 pages of items, like the NHL site sortable by price and number of bids but by default appearing in ascending order of auction time remaining. As on the home page, listings give up some detail — who’s selling an item isn’t revealed until clicking through to the item’s individual page, for example — for a cleaner design.

When I visited, auctions for a bunch of Montreal Canadiens programs were ending soonest, and I didn’t see any Caps programs anywhere near the top. Deciding I’d be better off searching than browsing, I typed “Capitals” into the search bar. A ’74-’75 program was not among the four results, but a ’97-’98 media guide, the season Washington made its only Stanley Cup finals appearance, was. Pretty cool. The item page offered less — and less apparent — interactivity than the NHL site, though presented the preview image big enough so that the somewhat hidden link to the larger version wasn’t essential.

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