The most useful automotive websites tend to provide users with social media access from a variety of pages, including the home page, model pages, configurator tool and photo gallery, according to results in our 2012 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study (MWES)—Wave 1, which is based on evaluations from more than 9,400 shoppers who indicate they will be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months.
We see that the widespread usage of social media has created an expectation of constant availability. By integrating links to social media platforms throughout several site features, automotive brand websites enhance convenience for users and also increase the possibility that website users will promote the brand within their social networks.
Overall satisfaction with the usefulness of automotive brand websites has declined significantly, to an average of 772 (on a 1,000-point scale) in Wave 1 of the 2012 study from 784 in Wave 2 of the 2011 study, which was released in August 2011. Much of this decline is due to decreased satisfaction with two of the four measures: navigation and information/content.* These declines may be partly due to challenges that automotive brand websites are facing in designing sites that are usable on both tablets, such as the iPad, and desktop/laptops.
Different Platforms Demand Awareness and New Website Design Approaches
Although only 20% of new-vehicle shoppers say they own a tablet, among those who own one, nearly half (47%) say they have used their tablet to access automotive information. Since tablet ownership is expected to increase during the next few years, it’s essential for brand websites to be able to accommodate both platforms without sacrificing usability.
As automaker website developers attempt to accommodate the dimensions, resolution and layout best suited for tablet use, some have changed their design in ways that inhibit usage on desktop computers. For example, pages that require scrolling to view all of the content on a particular page may be preferred by tablet users, but page scrolling can be quite frustrating for desktop/laptop users, who are used to clicking to access content directly, rather than finding it on the page by scrolling.
In addition to tolerance for page scrolling, tablet device users like to have big button links rather than text links, which are easier to use on desktop/laptops. Tablet navigation often uses finger swiping to access website content, while desktop/laptop navigation relies on click and drag mouse cursors. Effective websites will need to allow for both kinds of navigation.—Arianne Walker, senior director of media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power and Associates
*The semiannual MWES, now in its 13th year, measures the usefulness of automotive manufacturer websites during the new-vehicle shopping process by examining four key measures: speed, appearance, navigation and information/content.