Live Auctions

Design lead

If you haven’t had the distinctly terrifying experience of bidding in a live auction, I can assure you it is as stress inducing as it appears. With an auctioneer rapidly repeating the asking price and phone and floor bidders looking to secure the next increment, the fury of the exchange takes less than an average of 15 seconds per lot. You can imagine the dismay of the recent bidder who went through all this trouble, and spent over 1 million pounds only to have her work shred to bits. In 2016, Artsy wanted give auction houses the opportunity to expand their audience beyond those in the room and online by providing them with technology that could bring their sales online. Building this experience meant that Artsy could truly become a one stop shop for collectors by centralizing all of the best auction houses and galleries from around the world.

In partnership with my product manager we developed a plan for how we would connect what was taking place in auction rooms around the world with our global audience of collectors on Artsy. We knew that performance and ease of use would be two key variables in gaining the trust of both our auction house partners and collectors. We built two new experiences, live bidding mode for collectors available on the web and on ios, and Operator, an interface that bid clerks could use to report what’s happening in the room and execute incoming bids from Artsy collectors.

Live bidding
Artsy had an existing bidding experience for timed sales (eBay style auction where all lots end at the same time) but in order to incorporate live sales onto the site, we needed to create something new. We opted to create a new backend and front end system that would be able to meet the performance demands necessary to deliver bids in real time. Two weeks prior to a sale going ‘live’, Artsy hosts the lots on the platform taking pre-bids from users using the existing timed sale interface. Once the sale goes live, users are directed to the live bidding experience.  


Responsible both for reporting each bid in the room and bidding on behalf of Artsy users, the job of the bid operator is incredibly challenging. As such I wanted to create a oversized, oversimplified interface aimed at decreasing chance for error and hopefully allowing operators to develop a muscle memory for common interaction patterns.