Built from scratch
to excite our users
Our journey began in 2015, when we set out to create the best auction experience in the digital world. In 2018, we launched our platform AURENA to the German-speaking market. In 2019, we became market leader in Austria. 2020 was our most successful year so far, 185,000 lots sold and more than 1.2 million bids placed.
Good digital products solve user problems, great ones go beyond. Our rate of growth shows that we hit the spot with the market: bringing thrill, fun and excitement to eCommerce and creating a unique world of experience for our users.
The AURENA Experience: 3 core principles
“We build to thrill” is not just a slogan — it is one of three core principles that guides our product development process from the very first day.
Auctions are all about the interaction between bidders and the auctioneer. If you ever get the chance to participate in a live auction with hundreds of bidders in one room, you almost physically feel the tension and momentum of the situation. Adrenalin-fuelled bidders being in the zone, trying to outsmart each other to get hold of their desired goods.
Creating this experience at home or en route on your phone is what we set out to do: real-time interaction between thousands of bidders with millions of updates per minute, paired with a highly interactive UI; ensuring to keep everyone in sync, not forgetting low-end devices. We needed to push the limits of current technology, so we built one of the first single-page apps in eCommerce. We tweaked the framework to tickle out the last milliseconds of performance. We use gamification patterns and nudging effects to shape our bidding experience.
The auction business is all about trust: There is a difference if you buy a pair of pants online or place a multi-thousand euro bid on a sports car. If you think about traditional auction houses you realize that they have one thing in common: a reputation built over decades. That’s hard to compete with as the new kid on the block.
To make up for this unfair advantage we needed to create a unique brand experience tailored to our specific user group and deliver products that work reliably. That requires QA excellence, a high maturity level of MVPs and the highest standards for usability, visual design, and content strategy.
What is the most important feature on eCommerce platforms?
Take a second. Most likely “search” is what comes to your mind; if you don’t find a product you can’t buy it, right? Not so on our auction platform. That’s why we rely on user research as the basis for everything we do at AURENA Tech.
Treasure Hunting, as we call it, is what most users are doing on AURENA: browsing through hundreds of pages and thousands of lots, to make sure they don’t miss out on any special bargains or rare lots. That’s why we have heavily invested in lightning-fast pagination that’s unrivaled in the industry, a flat information hierarchy and the best possible scannability.
Testing the user experience
Usability testing is a well-known method to ensure flawless workflows, by validating a hypothesis about the user’s interaction with the system. With user experience testing we go one step further: we want to ensure that the experience we design has the desired physiological impact for our user. Specific emotional reactions are what we aim for and measure. Take a look at one example of how we conduct user experience testing in our Experience Lab:
behind the experience
Our motivation to build and operate the world’s best real-time bidding experience requires a platform that is at once: highly interactive, low-latency, and equitable for all bidders, with the immediacy of a financial stock-trading system. We were the first eCommerce company in Europe to launch an Angular single-page app.
We have built the front-end to maximise browser performance and immediacy, using gaming optimisation techniques to increase page rendering speed. We overcame the challenge of providing real-time synchronisation of the auction and fall-of-the-hammer updates over the web, using a scalable push-notification architecture.
At the heart of our backend, is our tailored AuctionEngine, a highly concurrent real-time Java application. It handles 50 bids per second on each auction lot. Our distributed micro-service architecture runs on Typescript and NodeJS. Supporting the backend, we also use Kafka, Avro, GraphQL, Redis, and PostGres.
Our design principles are Domain-Driven (DDD): we use event sourcing, aggregate root, CQRS, and saga patterns. This provides us with a deep insight into what’s happening in each of the domains. We replaced AWS SQS with Kafka to support an event-oriented architecture in our micro-service architecture.
DevOps and Cloud containerisation
Our business growth rate has doubled in the last year, with hundreds of newly registered bidders joining us every day. Currently, we manage the horizontal scalability of our platform, to meet the business demand, using AWS Elastic Beanstalk. Our focus is on continuous and strategic improvement, including reduction of build and deployment times and risks, canary releases, split testing, configuration management, and scaling capacity just-in-time to fit traffic demand.
In line with those goals, we are shifting our strategy towards Kubernetes as a strategic enabler. We rely on rolling releases and a comprehensive CI/CD pipeline. We use Terraform, Gitlab CI/CD, AWS, and Ansible for our pipeline automation. We apply the same principles of code adaptability, reusability, and low maintenance cost to our CI/CD codebase, as to our application codebase.
Quality and observability
We are committed to ship reliably working products that exceed user expectations. Right across the development cycle, from user testing to production monitoring, we want to make intelligent design choices based on real feedback. That’s why our motto is “don’t build it if you can’t verify it”. We are committed to automated unit, regression, and smoke testing, with Jest and Junit. For QA in Production, we use the Elastic Stack as our observability platform, aligning development, operations, and business metrics.
Going forward, we have strategic plans to build out our QA centre of excellence still further with enhancements to our bug process, quality gates, test case definition, requirement traceability tracking, automated testing, exploratory test organisation, security, and performance testing.