Many of you have been members of Rare Book Hub for years now, and over that time, you have surely witnessed the site change and evolve. But we are certainly not the only business in the industry innovating and undergoing redesigns! Old World Auctions, the online-only auction house specializing in maps and cartography and run by Eliane and Jon Dotson, has just released a brand new iteration of their website and auction platform. I had a chance to catch up with Eliane on the phone this past month, and she walked me through some of the biggest changes they’ve made.
Old World Auctions’ previous website was built in the 1990s, so to say it was due for an overhaul is a major understatement. For Eliane, the age of the site was felt most in its lack of flexibility to add features or to fix things when inevitable bugs cropped up, but her customers had different issues with the original site. So, two years ago, the Dotsons surveyed their members asking for feedback, and with the new site’s deployment, buyers and sellers at Old World have been heard. Before I go into detail about what’s changed though, I should mention that some things remain the same. Their auctions still operate in the same manner, with an online catalog open for bidding for one to two weeks before auctions close at 10pm eastern time. Browsing and searching auctions, adding items to a Watch List, and a Bid Status List have all been carried over as well (though they’ve also been updated and overhauled). Existing login details have also not changed.
The most striking difference you’ll immediately notice when going to oldworldauctions.com is the aesthetic change. The site is modern, with a large and eye-catching slideshow of highlight lots from the current or most recently past auction. This works particularly well because of Old World’s map-centric offerings that are inherently visual. Going past the initial impression, the site has been vastly decluttered. Clear links for the company’s newsletter, registering to bid, and consigning material present themselves on the homepage, while links related to auctions and the user’s account are kept in dropdown menus accessible in the top right corner.
A wealth of new features has been added to the site, and this is a direct response to member feedback. Global keyword and advanced searches of both the current auction and past auction archive are now available. Eliane told me that the motivation for this, especially in providing a transparent and searchable auction archive, stems from the fact that “our goal is always to be as open and honest as possible to build trust with our customers.” Over sixty thousand previously auctioned lots are searchable going back to 1998, with estimates, prices, and images included for each. As an employee of a service that prides itself on providing transparency to all elements of the rare book field, I believe this is a great move for the industry.
The Bid Status List that existed on the old site remains, but it has been updated to provide real-time data and a live count-down clock for individual lots is now present. Color coding has also been added as clear indicators of status, whether above or below the reserve, or simply outbid. Members’ invoice histories are also now easily accessible back to 1999. And finally, the site is mobile friendly!
As someone who periodically handles tech support requests for Rare Book Hub, I am keenly aware that when websites undergo major change, there can be a bit of a learning curve. Old World Auctions knows this too, and they’ve created a YouTube channel with several information videos on important subjects: How to Bid, Managing a Watch List, and Bidding the During the 10-Minute Rule. If you have bid on their auctions in the past, or plan to in the future, I recommend watching their videos here. They total less than 15 minutes combined.
Website development and evolution is a process, and Old World Auctions is not done. In the coming months, more features will be added to the new site:
- Additional search functionality, including searching within a price range, condition range, or date range (for the past auction archive)
- Additional browse functionality to allow you to select how many lots are visible on a page at one time (currently the maximum is 50 per page)
- Adding over 80,000 high-resolution images to the past auction archive
Old World Auctions’ next auction is scheduled to begin May 23rd and end June 6th. Their most recent sale ended March 28th, but they are currently conducting a post-auction sale of unsold items for reserve prices through April 4th.