Consumer Research & User Research

User experience: not just the look, but how it works

A German subsidiary of a global German car manufacturer operated two online car sales platforms, one for new cars and one for used cars. The used car platform performed far better, which was to be expected as more people search for used cars online. However, the platform was not yet state of the art.

The new car platform, where sellers can list their available new cars and offer them directly to customers, was already using new technology. Moving the used car platform to this same new technology opened up the opportunity to not only provide the same usability benefits, but also to further optimize the site. To achieve this, highly professional user research and user experience design were required.

The client approached FELD M to conduct a project aimed at identifying usability issues and improvement possibilities.

Main objectives:

  • Identify usability flaws in an otherwise flawless design – 8 usability tests
  • Appeal to all users – test participants with and without brand experience
  • Lay the groundwork for an adaptive Web app – great UX on mobile and desktop devices

We see again and again how important it is to see usability through the eyes of the customer. Good visual design is a start. But it must be coupled with intuitive usability that gets the customer to their destination quickly and easily. Only this creates truly outstanding customer experience. This was a really great project in which we were able to work with the client to make extensive improvements.

Simon Wagenstaller, Senior UX Expert, FELD M

Our approach

We started by establishing a starting point for scenarios in the usability tests. Two user experience (UX) experts ran a detailed descriptive analysis of the marketplace based on standards like ISO 9241-11 and experience. Using their findings, we generated hypotheses regarding which steps of the user journey might cause difficulties and how these steps could be improved.

In the next phase, we conducted eight usability tests based on the hypotheses. These involved real potential users who were currently searching for a new car. Participants ranged in age from 29 to 60, 40% of whom had previous experience with the brand. This point was quite important: we needed to understand if past experience would affect the perception of the platform – would fanboy be more willing to forgive usability issues and spend unnecessary time searching the platform than someone who is unfamiliar and not connected to the brand?

The usability tests enabled us to prove or deny our hypotheses, while yielding many new insights into how to improve the current marketplace. The desktop version worked quite well overall, but significant problems occurred with the mobile version. In addition, we identified a range of aspects that could be optimized – from visibility and functionality issues with the integrated map to filter issues in the detailed search function.

Especially revealing input included participant statements like, “It all definitely looks very promising, but it’s not nice to use.” Or, “If you start using it unprepared, you have to begin by figuring out where everything is hidden.”

Although the design was perceived as good and fitting for the brand, half of participants said they would have stopped during the process if they had been using it at home. This applied particularly to mobile use, where the call-to-action “show results” button was at the very bottom and in black. As Smartphones have a black frame at the bottom, users simply overlooked the “show results” button. The stylish black was in line with corporate design – and looked good. But good looks and good functionality are to different things.

Substantial improvements in the next release

With participants’ consent, we recorded nearly all tests, and used the footage to create a video of the most insightful moments. The highlight video showing potential users struggling proved to be a very valuable tool in convincing stakeholders that the problems are real.

The project resulted in a number of invaluable insights, which have enabled the client to optimize the platform far beyond the improvements the migration to the new technology itself offered. The identified issues were prioritized and directly included in the development roadmap. They will be implemented in the next version update.

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