In many cases the categories given don't allow for general browsing of auction house items in a method that make it easy to get a list of items that fit very general constraints.
As an example, if you want to search for consumables but only want to find items that take up the food buff (e.g. food consumables) you have two choices; browse through every consumable and try to pick out what you are looking, or have an existing knowledge of exactly what items you are looking for. This requires you to do [multiple] text searches on item titles, which as anyone who's done a sufficient amount of database work will know is far more tolling on server resources than a straight item property that can be identified by an integer.
There are two parts to improving this system; the technical side and the interface side.
It's very possible that the reason behind the auction browsing system being so incomplete and clunky is purely based on the technical implementation of item properties and their ease of access. In that case this is a feature much like the "improved" buff tool-tip issue (talent improved buffs show the same tool-tip as default buffs, a bug since beta in 2004) that is due to fundamental design flaws. If this is the case the majority of this post is useless, but as I haven't read or heard otherwise I'll continue writing in hopes that some may agree with me.
The changes to the categorization column that I will discuss make the assumption that it is possible to query a list of items based on certain flags which may or may not exist. I think over all, the changes will not only make using the auction UI much easier, but will also help the economy greatly and enhance the usefulness of quite a few trade skills. Obviously an "advanced search" feature has been suggested many times in the past but the goal of this idea is to provide the most end-user benefit from the least amount of development work.
No major changes needed.
- Remove impossible categories from each sub-category.
You won't ever return a result for a Cloth->Neck or Leather->Finger, so why bother having the categories? You won't have Miscellaneous->Shoulder, etc.
- Miscellaneous should have Neck, Shirt, Back (why is back currently in cloth and shirt is in misc?!), Finger, Trinket
- Librams, Totems and Idols can be a single subcategory, when combined these usually don't have more than five results total.
- Off hands should be their own subcategory if shields are their own subcategory.
While I generally feel this section is over-categorized, I can see it's usefulness.
- Remove the "Quiver" main category and combine it's subcategories (Ammo Pouch, Quiver) into a single subcategory.
A quiver is a "Container" after all.
This section needs a lot of work. Our consumables use a back end system to limit the number of buffs we have and shared cool-down so it shouldn't be too hard to categorize it. y estimation is that this is one of the highest traffic sections of the auction house.
- Create subcategories for Elixirs, Flasks, Foods, Bandages, Potions, Possibly Scrolls and temporary buffs (items that give a <= 1 minute buff) and maybe resistance potions/cauldrons. (Armor/Weapon buffs discussed below)
- Re-categorize nonsensical items, Arcane Tomes and Snowballs can hardly be considered "consumables", move items such as Wizard Oil/Mana Oil/Weightstones/Sharpening stones into this category from Trade goods.
Furthermore it may be worth it to change the category or food consumables that are not player created as in a lot of cases fish show up as a consumable when in most cases they are being purchased as an ingredient to a crafted food product.
Trade Goods Category:
This is one of the categories that makes me feel like this may be a technical implementation issue as I can't see how the categorization could be made and thought of as useful by any sane individual. It isn't clear to me what the difference is between what is returned from Trade Goods and what is returned from Reagents. Both categories return items that are created by users or acquired from the world and in most cases the end result is a reagent for a crafted item.
- Make trade goods for crafted goods that haven't been categorized previously. This will drastically reduce it's size but overall be much more helpful.
- Explosives/Devices can be combined to create an engineering subcategory.
- Create a category for temporary and permanent armor and weapon buffs. Move Wizard Oil/Mana Oil/Weightstones/Sharpening Stones/Armor Kits/Spellthreads into this category.
Currently these are (randomly) spread throughout trade goods and consumables, there is no rhyme or reason to it.
- Create subcategories for Gems based on color (orange gems would show up in yellow, red and orange categories). This would be incredibly helpful.
- Move anything not discussed above (including the parts subcategory) to the Reagents category.
Fine as is, might be worth a move to a subcategory of Weapons.
Discussed in the "Container Category" section, remove and combine.
Surprisingly well organized and useful. No substantial changes needed.
Create subcategories for each trade profession. This would require some generalizations (Some ore is used in blacksmithing, alchemy and engineering, but listing it only under mining is completely acceptable and reasonable). There may be some decisions that would have to be made that won't have so little contention, and my lack of knowledge about every trade skill will make this a little harder.
- Create a category for Essences/Motes/Primals/Heart of Fire and Fiery core type items, etc.
- Alchemy: Vials, ?
- Blacksmithing: Grinding stones, Flux?, ?
- Enchanting: Too numerous to list, the product of any disenchantment, rods etc.
- Enginerring: Any specific engineering item (copper tube, bolts, modulators, fused wiring, framework, etc.)
- Herbalism: All herbs.
- Jewlcrafting: Uncut gems, pearls, etc.
- Leatherworking: ?
- Mining: All ore.
- Skinning: All leather and scales.
- Tailoring: All Cloth, threads, dyes, bolts etc.
- Class Reagents: Fish oil, light feathers, etc.
This obviously needs to be thought out further and could use a lot of work. Even in it's simplistic implementation it would be much more useful then the current.
Easily the most confusing category. Lots of reagents and items in here that don't need to be. Scales, Diamonds, Feathers, Sleeveless shirts, etc.
- Move the quest books to the recipe->books category.
- Create a subcategory for cards, as you will only be adding more of them in the upcoming patch.
- Create a quest subcategory (sorry for my lore tact) for all tens of shredder pages/Punctured voodoo dolls that show up.
- Create a pets subcategory!
Obviously I could be more thorough and bore you even further, but I'll spare you. The point is the auction system is integral to any player economy and to have it implemented so haphazardly is less than ideal.
I'm eager to hear your feedback and/or mockery.