Maybe it’s just me, but have you seen looked at any auto industry websites lately? I’m not just talking about dealerships (which are mostly awful). I’m talking about the vendors, the dealer associations and even the auto repair industry too. The user experience in automotive industry websites is bordering on absurd and you shouldn’t have to settle anymore.
I’m a consumer just like the customers who visit these sites and I can’t decide whether it’s a lack of understanding, empathy, caring or simply a lack of attention that brought us to this point.
This post may end up looking like a rant but the truth is….
The truth must be said.
Let me give you some examples. I’m not going to call out names (although I’m tempted to because what’s happening here is costing business owners lots of customers). I’m simply going to tell you what I’ve seen lately and you can take that info with you to form your own decisions about your site.
3 Examples of Poor User Experience in Automotive Industry Websites…and What Can Be Done to Stop It.
These three examples are taken from my own experience in connecting with business owners in the past month. I have had the honor of spending time with them looking at their site from a customer’s (aka: human) standpoint. The following is what I’ve learned after delving into each situation, looking at the details, and speaking with website providers and/or developers.
Example One: The No Value Site
User Experience 101: a website must capture visitors’ attention with some kind of benefit the minute they land on the site.
Most everything I see today on automotive sites has nothing to do with benefits, only pretty pictures of products and…blah, blah, blah.
I’ve spent years advocating for dealerships (and their employees) to differentiate themselves from the store down the road. Data shows us that those who stand out get the sale.
People who visit your site are looking for ways you can help and reasons to buy. They’re offered so many choices in their search, so why not be the ONE they choose? Why pay to look like all the rest of sites they see? If you’re going to spend, spend right, right?
Try this: take off your ‘boss’ hat for a minute and go click on your site. Pretend you’re the customer who’s just clicked on your site. Now, answer this question within 10 seconds after clicking on your site:
What value do we provide that holds our customer’s attention when they land on our website?
FACT: Your business is not the hero, your customer is.
If you want to turn browsers into buyers (and I think you do), capture your visitors’ attention with a statement of how your products and services will benefit your customer.
Clearly define what you will do for your customer and why you’re better. Provide solid information that cuts through their confusion.
According to ChartBeat, you have between 5 to 30 seconds to hold the attention of a viewer. In other words, if you can’t communicate your value in less than 30 seconds, you’re losing out on a sale.
Example Two: The Templated Site
A templated website is one that lives on a server you do not own or manage. You still own your domain of course, but you own none of the content on your site. If you choose to part ways with the company that provides the templated site, you can lose all the content that went with it.
With templated sites, content is not truly yours.
I had a templated website provider inform me that, should their client choose to leave, the only thing they would ‘get back’ is their domain. I don’t know about you but that makes me very uncomfortable.
Content is a company asset and to have it be threatened by a vendor puts a company in a precarious position.
To further illustrate the problem, templated sites often have a lot of duplicate content. Google has warned site owners for three years now about duplicate content and the dangers of ‘thin’ content.
What is duplicate content and why should I care?
Duplicate content is content that appears on the Internet in more than one place (URL). When there are multiple pieces of identical content on the Internet, it’s difficult for search engines to decide which version is more relevant to a given search query. To provide the best search experience, search engines will rarely show multiple duplicate pieces of content and thus, are forced to choose which version is most likely to be the original—or best.
When duplicate content is present, a site suffers in rankings and traffic losses. Search engines don’t know which version(s) to rank for query results and which version(s) to include/exclude from their indices.
If you have a templated site and you want to test this, simply navigate to a few (or more) of your site’s pages, copy a paragraph, and plug that into Google’s search box. If it comes up with a list (sometimes the results can be in the hundreds or thousands), your site has duplicate content.
We conducted this test for a client recently and found over 1,400 other sites with the very same content on more than 30 of their site’s pages (I stopped at 30 because it was the same scenario every time). Each result was the content from my client’s site, verbatim, except for the cities they mentioned in the text.
We contacted the same provider I mentioned earlier about this issue. “Did you know your client’s site has duplicate content on nearly every page?” I asked.
He said, “Yes.”
I replied, “And you know about Google’s guidance on this subject?”
He replied, “Yes.”
Sadly, that was all he had to say.
Look, in some cases, it’s mandatory to have a templated website. However, somewhere along the line, somebody has to inform the clients that website content supplied is only the default. Somebody has to encourage them that it should be viewed as a placeholder for richer, more valuable content that each client’s specific customers need.
Own Your Content.
Technology is improving buying options and it’s time for the automotive industry to seriously assess where they want to be in the next 5 years. If surviving and thriving is the plan, then please explore the options available with having your own site.
These templated sites served the automotive industry well enough back when customers weren’t starting their purchase journey online. But there are just too many vendors out there right now delivering substandard or questionable solutions to an unsuspecting automotive industry.
It’s getting tougher to market a business online, especially if you’re not website or search engine savvy. But now is not the time to hand over your ‘digital storefront’ to these companies whose priority is to scale products instead of providing you and your customers the best experience possible.
Develop better relations with your vendors. Create a partnership where both work at creating the best value for the customer.
Example Three: The Verbal Diarrhea Site
Just like computers, human brains have a limited amount of processing power.
The total cognitive load, or amount of mental processing power needed to use your site, affects how easily users find content and make decisions.
Never overload website visitors with too much information. Here are a few of the UX design components that cause overload:
- Too many options
- Unnecessary actions
- Too much content
- Hard-to-find pages and features
Complicated and confusing interfaces force visitors to find solutions to problems that didn’t exist before they visited your site.
A visitor who feels confused by the options, the interface, the navigation and so on will likely feel overwhelmed, lose interest and click away to a competitor.
Solid content strategy dissolves confusion.
I was asked to review a site this week from an automotive industry vendor and deliver my advice on their content strategy. Experiencing their site, as a prospect would, was confusing and somewhat off-putting. It was difficult to tell what they were selling.
The first thing that hit you when you landed on their site was a long paragraph in a gray box. That is the visual equivalent of Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice: “Wah, wah, wah. Wa-wa-wa-wa-wahhhh.”
What followed that paragraph can only be described as the digital equivalent of verbal diarrhea. I kept searching for what it was they actually sold or provided but was unable to determine it after 3-4 minutes.
Human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. Holding a visitor’s attention can’t be done with a confusing onslaught of too much content. They will click away faster than a buttered bullet.
Pro Tip: You only get one chance to make a great first impression. If the first, best thing you deliver on your site is to confront visitors with a long-winded paragraph filled with $10-dollar words about your ‘awesome’ product, seek some help, man.
Website design reflects a company’s ability (or inability) to communicate their value to would-be buyers. Don’t let a bad user experience push customers to search further.
The best user experience is the one the user doesn’t notice. It appears smooth and simple on the surface, but hundreds of crucial design decisions have been made to guide, inform, prevent confusion and convert prospects.
If the user experience design does what it’s supposed to do, the user won’t notice any of the work that went into it. The less users have to think about the interface or design, the more they can focus on accomplishing their goal on your website. Their experience will be frictionless and they’ll convert more often.