No doubt you’ve noticed many changes to the site over the past 90 days. These changes, albeit primarily cosmetic, have set the stage for many more exciting changes to BookScouter. To that end, I would like to take a moment to explain why we made the change, what has changed so far, and what changes are yet to come.
Why the changes?
Long story short, BookScouter.com was beginning to show its age. It’s last cosmetic update was over 4 years ago in April 2010; and since then, many new technologies, practices, and advancements have been made to improve the speed and flexibility of websites. Prior to the 2010 update, BookScouter remained in its original form for over 3 years.
BookScouter’s tools have also been showing signs of age. The Bulk Lookup Tool was introduced in July 2011 and hasn’t seen many updates since; mostly fixes for when the service was down. As more Pro users have come to rely upon the Bulk Lookup Tool, we’ve simply spun up more servers to handle the load – still using much of the original code and design from 2011.
Lastly, our audience has grown. When BookScouter was originally introduced in 2007, it aimed to solve a problem for college students wanting to sell back their used book after the school semester. Today, BookScouter is used by many small businesses, bookstores, online resellers, and non-profit and government organizations.
What has changed?
Thus far, most changes have been cosmetic. Beginning with the BookScouter logo, we toned down the bright red and dark black and softened those colors to the dark gray and reddish-orange you see now. The style now represents a more streamlined look that is more on trend with popular designs such as the new iOS 7.x, Windows 8, etc.
Next, our audience has broadened and BookScouter.com is now being viewed more frequently on smartphones and tablets. This meant a responsive design that adjusted and optimized the content based on screen size. So now BookScouter.com adjusts to an optimized design for specific resolutions (widths – 320px, 480px, 568px, 768px, 1024px, 1224px) while still adjusting for custom widths anywhere in-between.
Finally, over 70% of BookScouter.com’s pageviews are the ISBN search results page (prices.php). This meant we had to give that page a lot of attention. In order to guide users to the comparison process, we emphasized the SELL action by the use of a button, and cleaned up the clutter of Yes and No with icons that quickly depict payment and shipping methods. Additionally, we added a visual element to each vendor, the vendor icon, that can help users identify a familiar brand that they may have used before, as well as add more color to the page.
We weren’t fully satisfied with these changes so we continued to research other search results pages of highly successful companies and finally conceptualized what we’re calling the “Featured Vendor Box”. This box is BookScouter.com’s suggested vendor for a particular book and will adjust dynamically for each individual book based on a key set of criteria. This criteria is quantified and processed by what we’ll call our “algorithm” – just to be cool.
The BookScouter buyback algorithm currently takes into account the following criteria to determine the vendor that will appear in the Featured Vendor Box:
- Status - Only vendors with Preferred status are eligible to appear in the Featured Vendor Box. If no preferred vendors qualify, the box will not appear.
- Price – Price is often the first and most important factor to a seller; thus it is the most heavily weighed data point in our current revision.
- Feedback** - We take into account a vendor’s BookScouter.com feedback score as means of quantifying the quality of service, as determined by BookScouter users.
- Speed* – Speed favors vendors who pay sellers more promptly as an average measure of time from when the book shipped to when payment was disbursed.
- Payment* - Vendors with more ways to pay sellers will appear more often than those with fewer ways of paying sellers, all other criteria being equal.
- Shipping* - Vendors offering free shipping with more carriers will appear more often than those with fewer carriers, all other criteria being equal.
* Not yet implemented. ** Partially implemented using placeholder data.
There are many other criteria we could add to make a very complex and comprehensive algorithm, but we would like to to keep things simple and transparent. Because this is a brand new feature, expect the Featured Vendor Box “algorithm” to undergo ongoing tweaking and adjusting over the next several months. However, we’ll post updates when changes are made so that 1) users can know we’re performing the same due diligence they would (or should) do before selling their books to a vendor, and 2) that vendors know what criteria they’re being ranked upon and have a clear plan of action to improve their chances at appearing in the BookScouter Featured Vendor Box.
NOTE: Registered users are able to hide the Featured Vendor Box so that the ISBN pricing table shows higher on the page, limiting or even eliminating the need to scroll to easily compare vendor prices. To do this, simply visit the “My Profile” page and opt to “hide” the Featured Vendor.
What changes are coming?
If there’s one thing BookScouter has to get right, it’s the accuracy, availability, and reliability of data that gives book sellers the information they require to make an informed decision about where to sell their books. So that’s where we started with the changes – BookScouter’s core service of searching a single ISBN and returning a result from dozens of vendors wanting to buy that book and the price they’re willing to pay.
Our first round of improvements tackled these core services, but with those now behind us, we’re ready to make improvements to the other tools and features that supplement its core service… and introduce a few new ones as well. Below is our list of features and tools that will be receiving some updates or be introduced to BookScouter users in 2015:
- More robust feedback system
- New iOS & Android mobile apps
- Improved vendor pages & relations
- BookScouter Deals & Deals Notifications
- Buy books using BookScouter
- Buy & Sell CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, video games, and other media using BookScouter
Note that the above items could be placed on hold or cancelled at any time, for any reason. I simply want to publicly state our roadmap to keep myself and others accountable for our current list of goals. Because of the length, I won’t go into detail just yet on any one item, but will reveal more details as we near the introduction of any of these new features or changes. As always, if you have questions, suggestions, or comments, please contact us.