By Erik Trent
Other than having inventory that doesn’t appeal to potential customers, poor website design is often the primary reason for a dealer website’s failure. If your website fails to engage the user, they’re not going to stay on your site. Many website providers offer cheap templates with almost no design elements, and that’s not the right way to go if you want to succeed. Most auto dealers aren’t designers, so here are 8 reasons why your site should be designed well. Use these tips to take a look at your site and see how you measure up.
Remember – your potential customers are looking at your competitors too… does your website help you stand out and look better?
1. Follow current web standards.
Web standards refer to guidelines set out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These standards ensure that websites look and feel consistent across a broad range of devices and platforms. They also help make sure that sites are accessible by all internet users, even those with disabilities.
Check your website and make sure that it looks the same in every browser (browsers other than Internet Explorer, such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari). You should make sure that your dealer website looks the same regardless of operating system or browser so that every potential customer sees the same thing. Web standards also help with faster loading times and easier to maintain code, as well as search engine optimization.
2. Usability is incredibly important.
Research shows that users who can’t find their way around easily (usually between 5 and 10 seconds) will often leave your website. If the information contained on your website is difficult to read, too generic, or poorly structured, chances are users won’t be able to find what they were looking for.
When it comes to finding what you’re looking for, navigation is key. As a general rule, users should always be able to get back to your home page with a single click. Common practice is to make your website logo (usually in the top left hand side) link to your home page.
In a nutshell, it needs to be easy to get around your website. Make sure every page is on your menu, either as a primary button or a sub-menu button. Don’t clutter your home page with so many images, buttons, and links that customers don’t know where to go. Simple and easy are always best.
3. Contact information is critical to any website.
Whether it’s email or phone support, customers should be able to get in touch with you quickly and easily. It’s best practice to have your “contact us” button be at the far right of your site menu. Contact forms should be simple and require minimal input from users. Don’t expect users to fill in 20 fields of personal data – they simply won’t do it. Providing contact details also adds credibility to your website.
4. Make it easy for customers to search your inventory.
If your inventory is large, it’s important to have advanced search functionality. Your customers are used to using search engines to get what they want – so make it easy for them to search your inventory with both links and a keyword search field. If they need to type too many different queries before finding what they need, chances are they’ll go elsewhere.
Your search functionality should be simple and easy to understand. Again, if it’s too cluttered or hard to follow, customers won’t use it and they’ll go somewhere else.
5. Don’t go crazy with color choices.
When you’re setting up your dealer website, don’t choose colors that are too intense. Many dealers choose bright, garish colors to try to stand out, but that will actually chase customers away. Choose a white background with black text to aid readability. Remember that users will commonly associate links with blue text and an underline. If you change this, try to keep the underline in place and give the link a unique color to separate it from your normal text. Try not to exceed using more than 5 or 6 different colors on your website. Your website delivers information much like a book – it’s not a jukebox.
6. Don’t center your text.
You should never use center alignment for your text. Many auto dealers love to center their text, but centered text is harder to read. Text should be left justified, just like a Word document.
7. Resize your images before you upload them.
When you’re loading images to your static pages, make sure you’re loading them at the size you want them displayed. We see dealer websites all the time that display images as a smaller image, but take an extremely long time to load. This happens because the dealer is loading in a huge image and just resizing the image with code (usually done with CSS automatically in the website CMS system). Slow loading images can frustrate users with slower connection speeds, and site load time actually counts as a factor for how your website ranks in the search engines.
8. Don’t use huge images on your vehicle details pages.
Just because your provider gives you the option to display huge images doesn’t mean you should do it. We see dealers all the time who set their sites to display huge images on their details pages. Nearly every provider out there displays small thumbnails that a user can click to show larger images in some sort of photo viewer – you don’t need to double up with large images on the actual page as well. It causes the page to load VERY slowly and youre making your users scroll down endlessly to be able to read your vehicle description and read about the installed options. Don’t force your customers to see the large photos, let them choose to see them in the photo viewer.
Follow these 8 tips and you’re going to have a well-designed dealer website that performs well with potential customers. Remember – your dealer website is almost always your first impression with customers. Stay away from the cheap templates and your customers will thank you for it.
Erik Tent is the Creative Director at AutoRevo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.