Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Car manufacturer websites - Worse by design.

These days I am spending more of my time in the world of design and a fascinating world it is. The folks I work with are exceedingly talented and have creative skills that I just envy. Everything they touch turns to beauty.

Yet the world of design is not about just making things beautiful, they also have to be functional to the point that whilst the beauty and representational aspects of the design inspire emotions that support the product, the functionality must not be encumbered. If both functionality and beauty are enhanced then we are definitely moving in the right direction. I say right direction because something  I have noticed and am doing my damnedest to change, is that left alone a creative’s project doesn’t have a deadline, it has a half life. A thing of beauty can, fractal like, never be perfect to the nth degree. Pixel 1475.674 may just not be the right shade of grey, so the Pantone swatches magically appearing from the designer bible of Pantone swatches to decide if Pantone 431 suits the mood better than 432C for that individual pixel.

To us City folks this is just anathema. A project has a deadline and we aren’t used to there not being an absolute best answer spilling from a black box under a desk coded by the best 12 year old quants that France and Russia can produce. Yet I am constantly amazed at the quality of work the creatives produce, yet agonise over. And they don't just agonise over the beauty, the functionality is key and this is where I step in. I am used as the creative’s test client where my short attention span demands that messages are arrived at promptly and delivered clearly. God forbid there is one unnecessary click enroute.

After a life time of reading financial research, or trying to with limited time and patience, it didn’t take long to work out that the best pieces were written backwards. Not the words, the layout. Conclusion first, preferably in simple idiot terms such as “X asset - BUY it”, followed by the bullet points as to why to buy it, followed by the breakdown arguments of each bullet point and finally, for those that really could be bothered (not me), a fat appendix of all the workings and supporting references with Greek letters. No one has time these days to start on an unplanned adventure into a 10,000 word document in the vague hope that at the end of it there will be something more tangible than - "In conclusion we find that there is no supportive argument for believing what we hoped we could believe in the first place. Thank you for allowing us to waste your time".

Instead the headline is key, the next level has to be the hook and then the drop (I sound as though I'm describing a house music template). The reader has to be lured into the exploration of the argument for at any time, if their attention wanes, you’ve lost them. And so it is with any form of marketing.

The critical space for marketing is now the web and building websites is an artform at many levels. Providing the information you want to provide whilst providing the visitor with the information they entered wanting, with the whole experience enveloped in visual or (to be avoided) audio background designed to shape the visitors emotions requires skills married from different professional backgrounds.

And here I pause and take a deep breath.



Car companies have the world’s greatest financial resources, in many cases greater than those of governments, they have the world's best engineers, they have an industry built on selling dreams and aspirations, they are highly dependent upon marketing and advertising, yet they cannot produce websites that are easy to navigate. Instead they have websites that must have cost fortunes as they employ every available piece of up-to-date web designer bling, to the point of making the things more difficult to get around than London on a tube strike day.

Here’s an example and a little test. Start a stop watch, click on http://www.volkswagen.co.uk . and tell me how long takes you to find the performance and fuel efficiency data for the top of the range sporty Golf diesel versus a mid range, both with the automatic box.

Dumdy dumdy dum... How are you doing?
I’ll just go and put the kettle on.
You not finished yet?
I’m just popping out to lunch...
Saw John down at the cafe, he sends his best..
Ah, you are back!

So did you enjoy that website? Did you find out that the sporty Golf is not actually listed with the Golfs? Did you stumble into petrol engine land unable to return or find diesel land? Did you enjoy the fact that each category of data demanded a drop down list that that could not be open at the same time as any other data? Did you discover and delve into the parallax scrolling down the page that wasn't obvious, in case it harboured, but didn't, the information you were after?

It is not the worst by far with Ford, Mercedes, you name it, all dragging the poor visitor into an Hieronymus Bosch styled web experience. Faustian nightmares. Websites designed along the same architecture as the film ‘Inception’. Yes I got lost in that too, not helped by falling asleep during it and having nightmares of the Audi website only to find that I was a dream within a dream and I was looking at the VW site.

I am a simple soul who wants the information he want’s, like.. NOW. And if I don’t get it I will be gone. I have no interest in two giggling morons acting out a car review in a video insert. I have no interest in 'clicky here, ooh the door slowly opens to show the inside graphic'. Why do I have to wait for the door to slowly open? Just to please a smarmy developer who has unloaded another £50k’s worth of web-bollocks on to an over-keen marketing director who has more money than sense? I have no interest in cross referencing to things I didn’t ask to look at, such as a Venezualan tribesman admiring the vehicle airlifted into the jungle to represent its 4x4 'go anywhere’ ability, when the toughest obstacle the transmission is going to suffer is a quinoa and pomegranate salad spillage outside Ottolenghi’s.

It is late at night, I am tired, I have had a day willing up oil prices. I started willing them up as I put my neck on the line on Friday looking for a bounce in oil, but ended up willing them up in the vain hope that oil becomes so expensive no one can afford to run a car, car companies go bust and no one has to experience their dreadful websites anymore. Or at least they do so badly their marketing budgets are microtomed down to such a thin wafer of their past bloated selves their websites are a simple one page PDF comparison sheet.

Oh, imagine that. A car company producing a single page PDF comparing all the key variables of each model. Those were the days. But, Mr Large Car Company, if this missive has landed on your desk and you are willing to bring in a team of highly creative geniuses, managed by a man who knows functionality when he sees it, to create a website for you that gets the message across without inducing hate in your brand, then I may be able to help.


ntwsc said...

Ummm, is this a good time to mention the pleasure my lovely sporty diesely Golfie has brought me, and that ne'er a nasty smarmy web-bollocky thingie was encountered in the making of its purchase? ;)

Polemic said...

I can only assume you went to a showroom rather than their website or you bought secondhand from autotrader? I would like to have the pleasure of a sporty diesely Golfie too but they are making it hard.

Anonymous said...

Angus said :

For old timers there is of course an easier solution. Click on the Peoples Car 'send me a brochure' link. Then, when it arrives, lie in the hammock and analyze the data with a glass of Pomerol in hand. Why brochures should contain all this lovingly collated data and the website doesn't is another question. One wonders if availability in the UK will improve now that Wolfsburgs exports to PRC seem set to slow ?

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