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Lessons From A Car Salesman In Better UX


As a UX designer, I try to take everyday life experiences and adapt them for experiences I create on the web. I recently was in the market to lease a car and the experiences that I had at three different dealerships were very similar to those I’ve come across online. The first 2 dealerships were for cars that I was excited to test drive, while the third was for a reliable (read: boring!) car that would appease those who cared about my safety.

At the first dealership, the sales guy seemed professional and nice enough. He appeared to be knowledgeable about his cars and ready to help me find the right one. However, once I asked him questions that weren’t on his sales training sheet, he had no answers and basically became utterly unhelpful. He started asking me if I wanted to test-drive cars I had repeatedly told him I had no interest in and kept trying to push me down a path I didn’t want to go in. I couldn’t get any relevant information out of him and couldn’t steer the conversation back to a productive place. So I left.

If this dealership had been a web site, I may have stayed on the first page, drawn in enough by the design, but I would have quickly become frustrated at my inability to successfully navigate to what I was looking for, and left. Good UI does not equal good UX. I have been on projects in the past where I was asked to “just make it pretty” and this was the end result, a great thing to look at, but a waste of time to interact with. A surprising offender of nice design but poor UX is Event Apart. Fresh Tilled wanted to send a bunch of us to one of their workshops in Boston that required us to sign up online. Instead of allowing us to purchase a group of tickets and just list out the names of the attendees, Event Apart asked for First Name, Last Name, Address, Email and Phone for each employee. For a  company that encourages other companies to send large numbers of their employees to their events, they don’t make it easy to do so. So frustrating!

At the next dealership I was approached by a sales “man” who looked like he was 12 years old and was wearing his father’s suit. I was so thrown off because I was expecting a professional adult to assist me that my whole experience took a wrong turn. I am all for young people in the work force, but this was just wrong. People make judgements in about 3-7 seconds into an experience and when this poorly dressed kid was supposed to be our sales guy, the entire dealership became this cheap place that didn’t care about how they appeared to potential customers. It was like they were relying on the fact that they have good cars and knew people would come in regardless of how much effort they put into looking professional. It was insulting and frustrating, and when it came down to it, I didn’t trust a place that hadn’t hired a conscientious professional. To be honest, I only gave the kid about 5 minutes of my time before I left.

Companies that refuse to put thought, time and money into their websites give off the impression that they are lazy and can’t be trusted. Credibility is lost, along with a user’s willingness to proceed to purchase. No matter how knowledgeable that sales boy may have been about the cars, in my mind he was a kid and knew nothing. These same feelings come up when you come upon most financial advice websites, sites that need their users to feel confident and comfortable in giving them secure information. Who would take money advice from a company whose website looks outdated & irrelevant, like it’s stuck in the 90’s? Their knowledge of investing is probably stuck in the 90’s too.

By the end of the day I was exhausted and really didn’t want to look at another car, especially a safe and reliable (boring!) car. When I entered the show room, I was warmly greeted by Al, a seasoned sales guy that seemed more like my dad than a someone who wanted to sell me something. I instantly liked him so I agreed to drive one of the safe (boring) cars. Although the car didn’t do much for me at first, Al educated me on all the great elements of the car and chatted with me about life. He got to know me as well as he could in a 10 minute car ride and used that knowledge to make the car seem more appealing to me. Shocker! I really liked the (not so boring!) safe car.

By the time I left, I felt wanted, comfortable, and educated, as though I had made a good choice.  Al used his time to learn about who I was and give me relevant information, which improved my user experience, and the likelihood that I’d buy the car.

My fellow UX/UI Designer at Fresh Tilled Soil, Kristy Stetson, did an awesome job of doing just that for the online personal training  service, FitOrbit, in the “Find a Trainer” process. Users coming to this site are often frustrated, shy, and nervous about picking a trainer (the right trainer). Kristy did a great job of creating a soothing and inviting environment, while at the same time asking the user relevant questions so as to help them easily choose a trainer. The user experience she created disarmed users and removed the anxiety they’d normally feel.  Ultimately this increased FitOrbit’s conversion rate.

Whether in life or online, a great user experience can be made or lost at any point. By considering our everyday interactions and experiences and translating them into the web, we can create more human, inviting online user experiences. 

Author Alex Sylvia

Alex prides herself on producing clean, solid designs with smart, intuitive interfaces. She’s excited by the potential for design to enhance our daily lives, and her talent shines brightest when solving challenging business and design problems.

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