Reck Agri is a farm and ranch real estate company in northeastern CO that specializes in auctions. That may sound like your typical real estate auction house, but Marc Reck implements a unique way of doing auctions that his competition does not. We were introduced to the account by our close partner Blue Tent as they needed auction software designed and built that had not been seen before. With a talented team of software engineers, Five Technology was a great fit for this project.
Stand alone online auctions are complicated enough, but how about an auction that takes place live but has an online component that needs to seamlessly integrate with that live auction. That among other things headline the list of challenges we encountered on this project.
As you can see, we had an uphill battle from the outset on this custom website application project.
Fortunately for us there was an outdated flash version of the auction software already working so there wasn't as much discovery as it might have been if we were starting from scratch. With that said, there was a lot of information to be collected so we sent a team up to northeastern CO to meet with the Reck team.
The auction process for Reck is somewhat revolutionary and because of it's format it drives up the selling price within. A farm or ranch is broken up into parcels and the auction allows bidders to purchase individual parcels, groups of parcels, or the entire property. As you progress through the process those that want an individual parcel are not just bidding against others that want that parcel, but the parcel bidders must collectively outbid the group and entire property bidders.
Upon a successful bid, several mathematical calculations need to be made to communicate to everyone else how that bid affected them. Think of a craps table in that a lot of people have money out there (bids) and when a new bid comes in it may affect anything they have on the table. With all this going on, the Five engineers had to use a technology called angular JS to instantly calculate and change the board. Angular JS does not require the page to refresh as it can update small cells on the screen individually as it needs to.
Other important aspects to the discovery phase:
The design team's objective on this custom online auction project was three fold:
Having received wireframes for the important screens from the discovery phase helped the design team tremendously. Because the technical designs had to pay really close attention to detail, there wasn't a lot of freedom for the designers to go outside that specification. The design team did a good job of making what was delivered to them look professional, as well as using colors and fonts to distinguish one row to the next in what was otherwise a very busy board.
The majority of this project was spent in the implementation process. With so many scenarios and updates happening simultaneously, there was a lot going on behind every action.
Admin. A full administration dashboard needed to be created so that three people could be working at the same time on their respective responsibilities. One person was monitoring online bidders and representing them live if they submit a bid. The second was updating the board with live action results such as accepted bids, changing tract, set bid increments, etc. And the third was communicating with the online bidders so they got a good feeling about what was going on live.
The live auction board that was viewed online as well as projected onto screen was quite the undertaking. As mentioned above, the team had to utilize angular JS to instantaneously update the three board interfaces without refreshing the page. Page refreshes would slow down the process and were not an option.
Other significant implementation milestones included:
Once the auction was to a point where the development team was comfortable with it, we compiled a QA team the included folks from Five Technology and Reck Agri. We first walked though the process as if there was an auction and made sure the admins had all the tools they needed. Next, we sent our lead developer to Sterling so live test auctions could be conducted. After a couple live test auctions, the implementation was pretty much complete.
As far as complexity of custom website applications go, the implementation of this one stands right up there at the top. The latest in today's technology was needed to pull this off which made for an exciting project.
The resulting custom online auction application that was delivered to Reck Agri was impressive. Let's take a look at the project objectives and see what we were able to accomplish.
Limited Bandwidth Requirements. Not easy to do when there is an audio and video feed passing through with all the auction data, but using angular JS we were able to eliminate page loads. Because angular JS only updates small subsets of the page and is done completely on the client side, we were able to reduce bandwidth requirements. Verdict: Success!
Instantaneous Updates. As mentioned previous, the use of Angular JS allowed us to make instantaneous updates to the bidding screen. As a result, the online experience is quite comparable to being there in person. Verdict: Success!
Administration. The process to run a live auction that simultaneously permits online viewers to participate does take some human assistance. An administration process was designed and built to not only administer what was going on live, but provided a link to the online bidder so they could be included as if they were present.
Moving this online auction application from Flash to browser based technology was successful. The browser is becoming the new operating system and custom web applications such as this are paving the way.