The Art & Science of Dealer Website Design

By: Steve Lausch, Director of Product Marketing

After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well.

These words were spoken nearly 100 years ago by the great Albert Einstein. Whether they are applied to the study of physics in 1923 or the study of automotive e-commerce in 2016, the same truth applies.

So, what does this mean for car dealers with a Dominion Website?

Changing Behavior

Effective automotive website design never stops evolving. We’ve long discussed Science-driven Design as a core philosophy embodied in our dealer websites. The art and science of this design must continuously evolve in order to keep pace with the changing behaviors of today’s vehicle shoppers.

This evolution can be seen in some of our more recent dealership web designs. There are two core problems we try to solve with each design we create:

Dealers crave distinction. This is created in part by OEM programs that define standards across the dealer body of particular franchises. The site for one dealer looks incredibly similar to the site of a dealer a few miles down the road. Very little opportunity exists for dealers to show off what makes them distinct, their unique value proposition, and their own personal “why buy here” story.

How we solve it: Dominion’s homepage features a hero image with a clear value statement. Large imagery engages the heart. A simple, direct “Why Buy Here?” message captivates the mind. From the second this page loads, it is burned into memory – a critical step for a dealer craving distinction from the rest of the pack.

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From the second this page loads, it is burned into memory – a critical step for a dealer craving distinction from the rest of the pack.

Shoppers want to research. It’s that simple. No longer are they willing to look at 17 different calls to action (CTAs) on a dealer’s homepage. They aren’t submitting price requests over 15 different sites and emailing the stores replying with the best offers. Rather, shoppers want to get in and get out, quickly and unnoticed, with minimal effort. They want answers to simple questions, such as “What can I afford?”, “What do you have that meets my needs?”, and “What will you give me for my trade?” In the case of a service customers, it’s a simple ask to schedule an appointment.”

How we solve it: Dominion dealer websites guide shoppers through the experiences they have in mind. There are minimal CTAs on the homepage and those few are driven by action-orwebsite-sept-blog-2iented invitations like “START SHOPPING” and “GET APPROVED.”

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The Science of Design

The approach to any effective design is never created in a vacuum. It’s guided by the science of remote user testing, heat mapping, and behavior tracking. These methods enable us to deliver the kind of websites that resonate with shoppers. Simply put, science gives us the insight on what shoppers will use and with what kind of experience they will engage most.

website-sept-blog-3Heat Mapping makes it clear that shoppers are no longer interested in the banner messages that have been abundantly placed on website homepages over the years. In one Dominion study, out of 2000+ visits to a test site, we tracked single digit clicks on banner CTAs.

 

Behavior Tracking captures live reporting on engagement with specific parts of thewebsite-sept-blog-5 site. One study used Google Tag Manager to track the behavioral interaction with Dominion‘s new Mega Menu.

A/B Testing was used to determine the placement of what is now Dominion’s persistent search bar. A designer’s opinion could have been to place this only on the homepage. Perhaps a dealer’s opinion would have wanted this on every page. We let science settle it. And, yes, the persistent search bar is indeed serving shoppers on every page of the site.website-sept-blog-6

The Art of Design

And yet, as necessary as the science may be, there is the equal value of elegant design. Beyond the hero images in Dominion’s new site designs is the inclusion of tasteful animation. In subtle ways, this artful addition draws attention to secondary calls to action as the shopper mouses over each image.

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It cannot be understated that elegant design means nothing if it isn’t designed with mobile in mind. Designs for our homepage hero image and menu, mega menu, and persistent search bar deliver as strong a user experience on a mobile phone as they do across the shopper’s desktop or tablet.

website-sept-blog-8As Einstein remarked, “The greatest scientists are always artists as well.”

If you’re ready for a closer look into both the art and science behind Dominion’s responsive websites, contact us today at 877.421.1040.  

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