Sotherans Launches A New Website

October 20, 2006 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Sotheran’s New SiteSotherans has just launched their new website. The new look is clean and fresh, and the interface is very friendly. Overall, the site looks a whole lot better than its predecessor and is now updated on a regular basis with new stock.

Regular stock updates to this website make a huge change. The previous site had stock items dating from 2002, making it impossible to determine what Sotherans actually had on their shelves.

Notably, the search engine is also a massive improvement on what was available before, and allows you to search for either books or prints. Unfortunately, it doesn’t facilitate any boolean style searches, so searching for something like “Africa OR India” will search for items that contain the words “Africa” and “or” and “India” in the description. Whereas, a search like “Africa India” will get more results, because it isn’t searching for the OR. And if looking for books on either topic, you’ll do better to search for “Africa” and “India” as separate queries. Still, building a search engine component on a website can become a radically sticky task when you start taking all of these possibilities into account. Frequently web developers just make a decision as to what the average person means when they type in a query.

Moving on from search, I must commend Sotherans on the use of imagery across the site. Many of the books are photographed, and as far as I can tell, all of the prints online have images provided. Not only does this make the site look attractive, but it also gives buyers a good idea of the condition of the stock.

While Sotherans has not provided an online shopping cart, there is an option to enquire about any particular book, which takes you to a simple email form, which includes the stock detail of the book that you are interested in when it mails the relevant department.

Catalogues are listed not as PDF files, but as listings of stock online, so you can browse through each item. This presumably frees up Sotherans to release online-only catalogues, which will be a very useful facility in the long run. However, I will make a guess that items in their catalogues are exactly the same as items in their stock database. This means that they will battle to provide special pricing for items bought from their catalogues. Nonetheless, these issues could be easily fixed with a few extra fields in their online database.

All in all, I’m impressed with the new look and feel. And I like the site. Now, all I need to see is an RSS feed! 😉

One last comment though, when I received an email from Sotherans anouncing the launch of their new site, I opened my browser only to discover that I was still seeing the old site. I spoke to a contact at Sotherans about the issue and we determined that the problem was a DNS propogation issue. Apparently a number of customers are experiencing similar problems. The reason for this is not clear, however the new Sotherans website is hosted on a different webserver. As a result, some DNS changes were made to point the domain name (that’s http://www.sotherans.co.uk)  to the IP address of the new server (62.121.17.128). For some reason or other, some name servers have not updated to reflect the change and some people are being directed to the old server. I got around this by editing my /etc/hosts file temporarily so that I could view the site. Sotherans is meanwhile investigating the issue with their domain registrar and it will hopefully be resolved in the next day or so. If you click through to the Sotherans website and it doesn’t look like the screenshot above, you’re probably experiencing this issue. Give it a day or so and try again, and hopefully the problem will have disappeared.

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