Sponsored by:

Higher Turnover Websites

the #1 Provider of Car Salesman Websites and Dealership Sites

Please note that comment moderation is being used on this blog. This means that you are free to comment on any posts, however they will be reviewed prior to being posted on the live site. We welcome any legitimate comments, but comments including links to your own sites (i.e. "link spamming" or "comment spam") will be marked as spam and will not be published. If you have comments that will be useful to other readers, feel free to post them, otherwise go spam someone else's blog!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Car Dealer Websites - What Not to Do

I'm a big picture guy by nature. I could be doing the most mundane task and I'm usually thinking of how it relates to other industries, or what the implications are from different angles. This week I was Christmas shopping online as millions of others do. I'm involved in development of car dealer websites, so I consider myself somewhat of a usability expert when it comes to web design.

When someone is visiting/using a website, they expect certain things. They have expectations for a lot of things including where to find things on the site and how certain things work. For example, I was shopping for a new Pandora bracelet for my girlfriend. Of course the first place I went to research was the official Pandora site. At first it was like any other website...decent looking and seemingly functional. Click on "explore" and navigate to the bracelet section...easy enough. OK, I know she wants a bracelet, I know she likes silver...click and click. Hold on, now they want to know what color. What color? I thought it was just a silver bracelet. OK, let's pick a random color and see what happens. How about orange? That's her favorite color. Now they want a price range. I just want to see the damn things that are available so I click on "show all". Finally, some results for me to check out. They have 10 different bracelets to choose from? Well I guess I'll start with the one that I think she'll like best. I click on it which produces...nothing. I click again and then realize the image isn't even linked. No way to get a closer look at the bracelet. I'm just stuck looking at a low-resolution image of the bracelet. It could be a circular ring of speaker wire for all I know.

Whatever, I'll just have to trust that this is the one she'll like. OK, time to put it in my cart and find some charms to go with it. I don't see how to put it in my cart, so now what? Oh well, I guess I'll just remember which one it is and find the charms. They have over 600 different charms you can purchase. For the average guy, this is a little overwhelming but I manage to find a few that I know she'll like. Good, I'll just add them to my cart and checkout. Wait a minute, where's that cart I put the bracelet in? Oh yeah, there wasn't one. All I can do is put everything in my "wish list".

My biggest gripe with this process is that I'm a guy and they don't make it easy for us. I'm not just a "clueless when it comes to buying jewelry" kind of guy, but as many would translate that title, I'm your "average" guy. The Pandora website is not the easiest or most intuitive design for someone like me, so I can only imagine what it's like for someone with fewer internet skills. It took me at least a half hour to figure out what to buy. The biggest surprise once I found all that stuff? You can't even purchase anything on the site other than a gift card! I know that if I go to my nearest jeweler who carries the Pandora brand that they're not going to have all 600+ charms in stock. Also, I've since discovered that there are a multitude of sizes for the bracelets themselves. What guy knows the size of his girlfriend's or wife's wrist? I ran across 7 different sizes available, and guessing which one will fit properly doesn't seem to have good odds.

At the end of the day I decided to get a different gift. If the Pandora site had been designed without some fundamental flaws, I would have dropped quite a bit of money on their overpriced items. Instead, I became aggravated and even after spending quite a bit of time looking at their stuff I decided to abandon the idea. Think about who you're designing your website for. In the case of Pandora, I'd have to believe a significant percentage of shoppers are men buying gifts. The site isn't geared toward men buying gifts though, it's geared toward people researching the brand. Pandora has some really strong aspects of their business model (e.g. securing long-term business through repeat customers) but this lack of e-commerce and non male-friendly site seems like a horrible marketing move if you ask me.

We have auto dealer clients from time to time who ask for off-the-wall features on their websites. Music playing on the homepage or some other novelty which was cool in the early 1990's for example. I encourage every website owner to think about who their audience is before designing a site. Sure, if you can dream it you can build it, but is "it" what your customers are looking for, or is it what you want?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Car Dealer Websites Using Flash Alienate iPhone and iPad Users

As someone in the business of developing websites for car dealers, I frequently see an advertisement for a dealership and check out the website listed in their ad. If I happen to be watching TV and see the website on a TV ad, I typically don't sit around with my laptop so I check on my iPhone. This happened the other day and when I went to the dealer's site from my iPhone, nothing but a message telling me to download Adobe Flash. Of course I know Flash isn't supported on the iPhone or iPad but I wanted to see what less knowledgeable people might have seen if they clicked on the link to install Flash. "Flash player not available on your device". So basically, if Flash is required to view your dealership website, there is no possible way for the customers to actually use your site. With the number of iPads and iPhones out there (and continuing to grow), if I were a car dealer, this would be the only reason I need to stay away from Flash websites.

I won't mention their specific name, but our competitor who handles this particular dealer's site I checked is one of the larger companies out there. They've made a decision to cater to what their clients want, rather than educate them on best practices for exposure. When we use Flash in our designs, it's only because the dealers insist on it, even after we've educated them on the drawbacks. We know that if you are going to use it, you should use it properly. This means have a non-Flash version of the site which is displayed for iPhones/iPads, or for smaller Flash elements, have images which are displayed when the Flash cannot be displayed. See the website header on www.tmotorsales.com, one of our client sites. Visiting the site from a PC you'll see the animated header. Visiting the site from an iPhone you'll see an image of the header rather than the big empty space that most providers have on their client sites.

If you're going to do something, you should do it properly, that's all I'm saying.