Dec 30, 2019
As an industry, Automotive is a spectacular one boasted with high-end products that bring shivers and promises of a better lifestyle to its potential customers.
Companies in the automotive industry spend millions of pounds on photography and design to make their products look appealing, so it’s no big surprise that their websites are super slick and filled with stunning imagery too.
But from a design perspective, how brilliant are the websites actually?
When you try and judge how well designed something is, you need to keep the purpose in mind.
For example. When you’re designing a family car you can give it a touchscreen, sat nav, intelligent parking, heated seats, 100+MPG, amazing looks and a sunroof, but if you can’t easily fit 5 people a dog and a buggy; then it will fail to be a successful family car!
Websites are the same. A website can have amazing video content, professional animations and a clean design but if the site isn’t allowing (and encouraging) the users to achieve their goals then they are failing to do the one thing that they were made for.
With this in mind, we need to look at the overall goals of the website when we try to judge their success.
I’ve been on the lookout for brilliant automotive sites over the last few months, and have as a result gathered a list of some of the sites I think are nailing design and lead optimisation.
If you’ve got an automotive site and need some help optimising your online presence, get in touch!
Now, let's dive into our list of website faves...
As a car manufacturer, your site will by default have a lot of goals. A manufacturer site needs to include find the nearest dealer, book a test drive, browse cars, contact support, see special offers, configure and order a car - to name a few functions.
Because manufacturing websites need to be so comprehensive, the different functions are likely to be on different sites. This means that if the designer is not careful planning the on site handling, the experience can quickly become a navigational mess.
It is evident what Volvo has spent a lot of time getting to know their users, creating storyboards and designing a flexible site navigation. They’ve built a site where it’s easy for users to find what they need and achieve their goals.
The main menu offers multiple levels in a clean format which allows users to access the different layers of the website without getting lost.
Volvo has also created a more exclusive community with their gated ‘Volvo ID’. This part of the site is accessible via login exclusively and is tailored to a specific set of users.
Most impressively, Volvo has a built in app style bottom navigation that offers users the most popular tasks on the site. Not only does it look super snazzy and helps the user navigate the site quickly, it’s taken small screen UX into consideration and handed over the easiest part of the screen to interact with the most popular tasks.
There’s no doubt that Volvo has set the standard high for large site navigation amongst car manufacturers. The site is clean, easy to navigate and sells the Volvo lifestyle really well.
A list of great automotive sites wouldn’t be complete without AutoTrader, these guys more or less re wrote the book on buying and selling cars.
Autotrader (like most other digital giants) started with one question: What if? What if we took the painful process of buying/selling a car and made it easier with technology?
Traditionally, you could spend hours flicking through ads and calling up sellers, to then go see the car. Buying a new car (or used) used to be very time consuming.
Autotrader wanted to make the search more simple. They wanted their users to type in their specifications and requirements, to then go on to compare options - by the click of a mouse (tap of a screen these days). They wanted users to be able to compare the condition of the car, the history, insurance costs, roadside tax and chat with the sellers online.
Straight away, Auto Trader had two big challenges to overcome.
Autotrader solved the problem of user generated content by following typography best practice and by giving elements plenty of whitespace. No, it doesn't look stunning - but it's easy to follow and use. It allows users to skim read the content they are interested in and ignore the stuff they are not.
With the immense variety in user goals, the site could’ve easily become a mess with all the UI elements trying to accommodate everyone. However, because Auto Trader have used minimal designs and broken up filters so that only the most popular filters are visible from the home page, they’ve found a good middle ground. This helps break the search process up into bite sized chunks and prevents the user from feeling overwhelmed. The more obscure filters are of course available once you get through to the results page.
We Buy Any Car they may have a set of very annoying ads and jingles, but they do run a very successful business. Without a great digital presence, We Buy Any Car simply wouldn’t be where they are today.
Similar to Auto Trader, We Buy Any Car asked the ‘What if?’ question. What if people could instantly sell any car online? Would they trade in a lower price for saving time and hassle? The answer was yes.
We Buy Any Car’s goal is simple. The user types in their registration plate and gets an instant quote. It’s then up to the user to decide whether they intend to sell the car or not.
This website really is incredibly simple. You type in your registration plate (plus a few other bits of information) and it calculates you an instant quote. Should you choose to accept then you pick your branch, a time that suits and you’re done.
Although We Buy Any Car might not look beautiful or delight users as much as Volvo’s site does, it focuses on the users needs. Every decision that has been made, has been made with the user completing their goal in mind.
Most sites aren’t so brutal about their design, but there’s a simple lesson to learn here. Put the user first and make sure you are building something that solves problems easily. If you can do that, then you’re almost guaranteed success.
As with the previous companies, Carwow saw a flawed process (buying a new car) and thought, how can we do this better?
Carwow wanted to put the users in the driving seat, not the car dealers. Here’s how it works: a user types in their requirements and then the dealers on the platform compete to provide the best offer.
This handy site allows a user to pick a car and location and then receive quotes from verified dealers, chat to them and ultimately pick the deal that works for them. No searching a bunch of sites trying to compare all sorts of information, and best of all - no sales calls.
The Carwow idea is ingenious, and we’re all for putting the users first her at Digital Impact.
However, whilst this system is great for users, Carwow had to find a way to keep dealers interested or their site would fall apart.
The dealers needed some serious conversion rates to justify the time spent setting the whole thing up and replying to leads.
Carwow solved this problem by discreetly gathering a lot of details through simple questions in their wizard style screens, and delivering high quality detailed leads to the dealers. By breaking all this down into bite size chunks and being super transparent - the users barely felt they were filling out a form.
*Disclaimer. I am the lead designer at Lease Fetcher, so you can take this entry with a grain of salt.
Since launching at the start of 2018, Lease Fetcher has been very successful. The idea behind the site is simple. There are hundreds of leasing providers in the UK and all of them have different prices, different special offers at different times, and they’re all on different websites. We wanted to build a site that would pull all of this information together, saving the users a lot of time.
We wanted to build Lease Fetcher to be a tool more than a brochure, so we started with the search engine. Searching had to include a lot of fields, but they needed to be presented in a way so that the layout was still super easy to digest for the user. This was our biggest challenge. How do you have a significant amount of UI on a screen, without making a mess.
We decided quickly that on the home page, we’d only have the elements that were absolutely needed. Not things that looked good or that we thought would work, but elements that were backed by data.
This relentless approach allows us to focus on building a solid UI that could help users find the right car.