Backed by evergreen funding, tech start-up auctionOS was born with the goal of digitalizing the outdated automotive auction business across the United States.
A team of three auction veterans created a web-based B2B operating system that is disrupting the auto auction industry. They designed auctionOS as a cloud ecosystem that connects the stock of independent seller auction groups and auto consignors with wholesale licensed dealers ready to buy via The Auction Platform.
The founders assigned me the task of designing the buyer's experience and digital campaign to launch auctionOS as the leading technology provider for independent auto auctions nationwide.
The Auction Platform
2 years of back-end design
1 year of front-end design
The team consisted of four back-end and one front-end developers, and a few fellow experts in the auto auction field. The founders collaborated in the sprint workshops I co-facilitated to support functionality hierarchy, customer's journeys, and effective development priorities.
As the sole creative on this effort, my role was to coordinate and lead all faces of design including: user & market research, information architecture, user task flows, wire-framing, responsive prototyping, features prioritization, and usability testing. It was also my responsibility to design all communication strategy materials including company identity, digital marketing campaign, investor’s presentation materials, new business pitches, software documentation, and training guides.
MY ROLE & THE TEAM
CHALLENGES & GOALS
Designing the software ecosystem was a complex task, and there was little time to validate the possible hypothesis. However, thanks to the collaboration of a local auction group, we were able to perform weekly live tests since our firsts deployments and receive product validation and customer feedback; That allowed us to quickly correct code bugs and UX pain points.
After the official launch of the newly designed Auction Platform, consumer engagement and aOS operating system subscriptions increased by 300%.
Since then, they have continued to expand their list of features and keep onboarding new clients.
A tech startup faces many challenges, but our biggest challenge remained to be the need to build an extensive list of required features to fulfil the business needs of our clients and costumers. There were a few existing designs on the customer's website, but I soon realised that these prototypes were done without any user or marketing research. I ensured that my new research was timely captured to use during sprint workshops and also on-boarding documentation.
Given that we were on a critical time-crunch, the founders and I ensured that workshops with stakeholders and experts were performed three times a week during my first month there to extract the most valuable information during the "Define" stage. Then the team and I utilised our time wisely during the "Develop" and "Test" phases of the process. It was key that the product was validated early and that we implemented iterations quickly.
1. Research & Discovery
Understand client & platform:
- Site review
- Problem definition
- Competitors analysis
- Focus groups
Understand business requirements:
- Stakeholder interviews
- Content audit
- System, software & tech
2. Analysis & Synthesis
Define structure & platform:
- Hierarchy of requirements
Define scope of vision,
users & goals:
- Insights prioritization
& edge cases:
- Process flows
- User journey
Define site experience:
- Information architecture
- Experience maps
- Stakeholders & experts
- Feedback evaluation
3. Design & Development
- Sitemap detail
- UI Research
- Interactive prototyping
- Usability testing & usage logs
- Monitoring, evaluation & prioritization
User interface design:
- Usability Metrics
- Implement development
4.Launch & Iterations
- Data management
- Software Documentation
- Usage tracking
- Feedback implementation
- Client installation
- User support
- Feedback evaluation
- Live testing
- Usage tracking
- Data management
- Feedback evaluation
- Development maintenance
- User & client tech support
- New client's onboarding
EXISTING DESIGN vs. NEW SOLUTION
There were many occasions where our users needed to see a list of options, categories, specifications or other related items; but he or she still needed the inventory list in view in order to make a selection. The user must be given the facility to review the contents of one of the list items while having access to all other items, or—at the very least—an overview of the list structure, as is the case with email applications where the user can see the list of emails on the left-hand side of the screen. Users need this, as their tasks require them to switch between overall items and specific content multiple times while they’re performing a task.
The existing design of The Auction Platform was not intuitive enough to allow the user to differentiate between "general" information and "detailed information". All the screens contained more or less the same information but just in different layouts. This forced the user to leave the screen after clicking on "Condition Report" if they wanted to access specific information. In addition, the interface design and branding was outdated to today's standard and did not speak to the tech-savvy audience that is using online auction platforms.
Stakeholder testing Iterations
How could we make it easier for dealers to browse through vehicle listings?
Maintaining the individual items in view, while users delve into one particular item in the list, means they can move seamlessly from one item to another. Users can view each item's contents simply by clicking on the vehicle listing. Positioning two panels side by side allows customers to switch their attention from the contents of one item to other potential selections, without having to carry out any intermediate steps or interactions. Furthermore, users do not have to scan large amounts of screen space, nor do they need to skip between different sections of the site in order to gain access to the list of options or individual contents.
This high level of cohesion between the list of options and their corresponding contents reduces the amount of physical 'traveling' required, both in terms of the number of interactions and the distance users must span when switching their attention from one panel to another.
The founders requested to maintain the original name of The Auction Platform.
There is a brand design section below where I go in further detail on the rebrand of the logo and the brand creation of auctionOS.
Two-panel selectors have the benefit of allowing the user to skip from one item to another at lightening speed, without having to switch between different sections of an application. Another benefit associated with using two-panel selectors is the minimal cognitive expenditure required, as the same visual framework is used for all listings and the same spatial location is preserved to the detailed information of the condition reports of the vehicle selected.
Detail Vehicle Search
Sale Events Search
FLOWCHART & SITEMAP
We wanted to welcome all independent auctions and dealers to The Auction Platform and that's why unregistered users can freely navigate and search for inventory and upcoming sales. However, users are required to create an account and have their registered dealer licensed verified before joining any online auction. All data is securely backed up in our infrastructure of local and remote servers which allows the platform to run smoothly and avoid long loading times. This wireframed site map details the elements and information of each screen we developed for the launch.
INTERFACES & DISPLAYS
There are many reasons why blue is the principal color in UI design. Tech giants such as Dell, IBM, Intel, At&t and Paypal take advantage of the benefits of the psychology behind it because they are powerful in making users feel safe and that the product is trustworthy. Blue hues give a sense of innovation and reliability.
In our research, we discovered that around 70% of our users use tablets to perform business-related activities. Our users can perform searches and manage their inventory in any device they want. However, there are certain features like LiveCast streaming that have a display limit at tablet view so their performance can be optimal. We inform our users of such details in our training guide tutorials.
AUCTION LIVE STREAMING
During the on-boarding process with our clients (auction groups), we installed cameras and microphones in the lanes where the auctioneers run the sales. Doing so allows us to live stream the auction so that our online buyers can bid against other dealers that are there physically. The interface is designed in a way that allows customers to quickly navigate the upcoming inventory and bid on the sale taking place. There are two containers on the right side of the interface that allow the seller and the auction group to display real-time messages and information regarding the vehicle or the deal taking place.
Original designs of the live auction streaming page
STAFF IPAD APP
One of the main challenges for our client's onboarding process was the digitalization of their inventory. Mid-size auctions can sell up to 2,000 used-vehicles a month. Every vehicle needs to be carefully supervised from the moment it enters the lot to the moment it's delivered to the dealer who buys it. Auctions hire fleet staff to hand-write extensive condition reports that determine the grade and value a vehicle receives for a sale. The Condition Report App feeds the system database allowing the cloud ecosystem to run effectively. Perfecting this process became a major milestone in the development of auctionOS and increased report writing performance by 90%.
auctionOS and The Auction Platform are web-based tools that are disrupting the outdated automotive auction business. As an innovative product, there is an elevated perceived risk given that consumer familiarity and experience is limited. That's why the identity of auctionOS was designed with trustworthy blues and soft, round edges. Brands accelerate the depth of their ecosystem with partners and loyal customers. The goal was for the brand and its elements to exude a feeling of reliability and web efficiency.
Introducing our product and operating system to new clients was something that started with a cautious approach. In our first live sales, we set up each new client with meticulous care to ensure that the software adaptation was optimal and their business ran smoothly.
We performed on-going testing, trained staff one-on-one, and methodically collected user feedback. Our team of eight traveled to each location when they ran their first sales and were ready to fix any incident instantly. Our customer service philosophy became the key to our growing success.
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