What I did
User research, wireframing, prototyping, usability testing
Axure, Sketch, InVision
DealerFox is a digital management and consulting firm for car dealerships. DealerFox asked us to create an Engagement Model Site (EMS) for a specific model of car to improve sales.
One thing that most people can agree on is that buying a car is not a fun process. Having to deal with pushy sales people and the massive amount of information out there overwhelms users. Users had a hard time digging through all that to find what they need in a car.
In the end our design focused on finding users a car that fit their unique situation. Our solution asks users a few simple questions to help narrow down the list of cars to a more manageable size. From there users are presented with all the information they need to determine the right car for them. We tested this and users felt increased feelings of confidence and control over the car buying process.
Exploring the domain
Understanding how the car industry works was a steep one. We needed to know what other sites were doing as well as other types of sites that sell cars.
These companies were in direct competition with DealerFox. DealerSocket was the closest competitor, they created sites for local dealerships. Dealerships paid DealerSocket for their websites and the design left a lot to be desired.
One of the biggest areas where the competition lacked was in education. None of the sites focused on educating the buyer on what car was best for them. There was a lot of car jargon that was overwhelming and not easy to understand for the uninitiated. We decided that this is an area we needed to focus on in our research and design.
Understanding our users
We talked to people who had recently bought cars to understand the issues they encountered. We were able to identify a few areas that caused users the most pain.
“I want to walk into the dealership with the most knowledge and ammunition.” - Sheennan
This hits on the education aspect mentioned earlier. Users felt that they didn’t have enough information going into a dealership. We had to provide a better source of information for users, so they would be better prepared for the in person experience.
“Stop trying to sell me and try to figure out what I really need.” - Mike
Users didn't like sales language whether that was online or in person. Users can get pushed into buying something they didn't want or need. Our design needed to avoid selling and actually get users to a car that fits their needs.
From our research, we determined that our users were not car experts and needed better ways to educate themselves about the car buying process.
David feels frustrated and ignored by all the sales people he talks to. We found that users hated going into the dealership, no matter how prepared they were. Users were ignored or pushed into a bad decision. Users need an improved online experience to help the in person experience. This would allow the process to be more focused on a user's needs instead of the dealer’s.
Synthesize and define
Now we could see the issues car buyers were dealing with, from research we determined:
- Buyers needed simplified language.
- Buyers learn about their vehicles in different ways.
- Dealers sell what they want, not what buyers need.
The car buying process was complex and not understood. Users needed a site that educated and increased their confidence when buying a car.
It was clear by now that users needed to be more confident about the car buying process. These principles focused on increasing users confidence throughout the car buying process.
Knowing the problem and having principles to guide us we started to create initial concepts. Our focus was on improving users confidence by designing sites that worked to get users what they needed.
Getting users to what they need was the biggest insight from our research. That insight fueled our main source of divergence. To get users to what they need we designed questions to determine what car would fit them the best. Each concept presented questions in different ways.
My concept aimed at getting users to what they need while being very informative. I used a survey style questionnaire that asked questions about users lifestyles. This would help to determine what car best suits them. Once a user answered the questions they saw why the car fit them on the search result. This extra context allowed users to understand what the questions did for them.
The vehicle display page included features from research that also fit our client's needs. The biggest feature was a comparison tool for looking at features of many cars at once. I also included a payment calculator to help users understand what they would pay per month.
This concept asked a different style of question. These questions were more general, like “Practical or Trendy.” This concept also included expert and user reviews which were features users said they required when searching for a car online.
The last concept was more specific and used dropdowns for their questions. They asked questions about their budget, how you want to buy, and details like the color. Also, the search results in this concept displayed a lot of information about each car. This allows users to get an understanding of what each car offered without navigating further.
Testing the design
After putting our designs in front of users we determined what features we needed to focus on.
Questions: Users felt each set of questions was relevant to the car buying process. The process increased their confidence and made it more personal.
“Why this fits you”: Users liked knowing why the site chose the cars they were seeing. This allowed them to be more confident that the cars they were looking at are ones that fit their needs.
Detailed Search Entries: Users liked the amount of information listed on the search results page. They felt more confident about the car they selected by having this information up front.
Detailed information: Having a lot of information on the Vehicle Display Page was necessary for our users to make a decision. The most important information to display was gas mileage, price, safety, and space. Users liked having extra information available to them if they needed it.
Comparison: Our client wanted this feature but also backed up by our initial research. Users found this to be the most important feature of the Vehicle Display Page. Every user said they “comparison shop” when looking for a car. Knowing what is out there and how cars match up increases confidence for users.
Testing was a success, users pointed out features of each concept that they liked. Each feature users liked helped them be more informed about the car they were researching. This increase in understanding improved user’s confidence with the car buying process.
Convergence and final design
We took feedback from concept testing to start creating our final design. We needed three sections based on our testing. We created the questionnaire, search results, and the vehicle display page. This differs from our client’s initial request of creating five different screens, but our research and testing told us this was the direction to take.
We did one final round of testing with our converged design. We wanted to determine if the content of each page was what users expected. We learned that our design worked for our users. Users felt an increase in confidence over previous experiences shopping for cars online.
“The biggest thing about all of this was I felt confident about what I needed to do. I always had my family to help me when I didn’t know stuff but this made me feel confident to do it by myself” Ryan
Increasing understanding and confidence of users was the core of our problem. Our design tested well with users and accomplished this goal. Our users felt they were more confident and had enough information to go into a dealership.
“It made it easy and hassle-free. I like the fact that I was in control of it and it moved at my pace and lead me somewhere.” Sheennan
Another area we succeeded in was giving users back control of the car buying process. Users got pushed around and would end up with something that didn’t fit their needs. Our design worked by informing users of what car is best for them. This helped users feel more confident going into a car dealership.
DealerFox decided they wanted to go forward with our designs. So we prepared our deliverables to handoff to the UI team.
The overall design of the website didn't change much. The biggest change was the location of the buttons on the vehicle page. During our testing, they were missed by most users. With this new layout, they are much easier to see when browsing the vehicle page.
The next phase of this project is to add trim levels of cars to search results. This would give users more options and information to make an informed decision. Another area we would like to add would be having alternate search paths for varied experience levels. An expert car buyer should have different questions presented to them than a novice car buyer. Questions for an expert car buyer can be more specific and detailed compared to a novice buyer. More testing would be required to know what questions expert buyers would like to see.
Our design for DealerFox was unique and different from what our client initially thought they wanted. DealerFox wanted a set amount of screens for a single model of car. Our solution focused more on getting users to the car they need. In the end, our design solved the problem we found car buyers having and it was loved by our client. Users felt that our design was easy to use and hassle free. Overall, it made them feel more confident about the car buying process.
There are a few things I learned throughout this project. My confidence presenting work and conducting interviews increased by leaps and bounds. With that, I found an increased appreciation for the research part of the UX process. I learned to go where my research told me to go. If we didn’t expand on what DealerFox asked of us we wouldn’t have solved our user's real problems.