Car User Experience

It’s hard not to like a site that pulls detailed images of auto interiors. It’s defiantly eye candy, the site also allows for visitors to compare interiors or apps. Wouldn’t it be great to have even higher resolution images to zoom in on specific details? I think yes.



In Car Infotainment

The Consumer Reports information is in and the news is not terribly good for car makers. The systems installed in new cars that control radio and other entertainment options are hard to use and do not always work as expected. 

This does not come as a surprise to me. I don’t understand how anyone thought it would be an awesome idea to use a touch screen interface to control the radio, volume etc. But when the thing crashes? There is not sin in using analog controls, right? 

What if Cars were websites? Part 1: Overview

Multiple Brands/Models are diluting the market

I have long struggled with the notion that the big three really need to make the same basic vehicle under different brands. I recently noticed that GM is selling 93 different automobiles. Once you start to look at the breakdown you see duplication not just in the same brand but the same basic model between brands. There maybe valid reasons for this, but I can’t come to one from a web perspective.

Imagine a conversation in our world like this:
Brand Manager(BM): I want a website just like the one I have now.
PM: Great, so we are going to move your existing site to a new one?
BM: No, I want two! Keep the one I have but I need another site that will have the same content. Maybe a couple of changes, you know, logo and a photo or two. Ooh, and flash we have to have that.
PM: Uh, okay, so you want to duplicate the site you have now with another one. Who is this other site for? An older demographic? Impulse buyer?
BM: Oh, no nothing like that. We are going to target the same customers.

I could go on, but for web products this would seem silly. Imagine if Twitter said the same thing as above. We would laugh them out of the building!

What is your brand identity? Who is your customer?
This would seem simple enough, but I wonder if the US auto makers haven’t lost site of who their core customer is for each of their brands. Look at the vehicle offerings for Pontiac and see if you can figure out who they are trying to sell to. Compare that with Scion and you see there is a significant difference in the marketing approach to the brand and the cars.

Innovation is more than a fancy new model.
Sorry to pick on GM, but innovation is more than coming up with a fancy electric car. This might generate interest, but if the business doesn’t change then it is all for naught. The Volt really looked kind of fun early on, but has fallen prey to blasé styling. Not that I was ready to buy one anyway, but I wonder if Chevy was the right brand for this vehicle. Doesn’t GMC and Cadillac bill themselves as the engineering brands? The innovation needs to be in the structure of the organization.

Imagine another conversation with web products:
BM1: I want to have a new shopping cart with Flex technology to display everything.
BM2: No way, you customers barely know how to click on a link. They won’t get it. Let me go live with it.
BM1: You’re jealous because my customers spend more money with me.
BM2: Whatever, you’re a jerk. Give it to me.
PM: I have to agree with BM2 here. We can launch the product there and work out the kinks. Then migrate it to the other brands.
BM1: Absolutely not, I’m running this show. If you don’t like it I’ll find a vendor that will do it for a six pack and discount.

This will not end well. The product would launch on the wrong site. You know what happens next. The product launches to the wrong demographic, conversion are down, finger pointing begins and the old site is back up.

Next time a closer look at GM.

What if Cars were websites?

I have a deep love for cars. From the time I was a little kid I used to quiz my dad on every “cool” car I saw. My dream car is a 49 Mercury chopped and dropped with flat black paint. If I can’t do that I’ll take a Porsche 911 GT3 RS…but I digress.

I don’t claim that I can cure the ills of the auto industry. Certainly GM and Chrysler are in dire straits and Ford is not far behind. But I wonder what life would be like if we looked at the insdustry from yhe approach we take when it comes to working on web products. So in the interest of science or just my fascination with cars, I’ll take a look at the big three and see what, if anything, we can conclude from this approach.

Generally speaking this is just a fun excercise and should be viewed with all due skepticism. Expect quite a few assumptions in the next few posts. You have been warned.

April Showers/May Flowers

It was great to see so many of you in Memphis last week. I am excited to report that Kellie does actually shut down. Well the big news this week is Claudia’s departure. As I understand it Claudia will be cooking on her computer while designing a tv show. I must admit that my Spanish is somewhat lacking as I had Claudia give me the details in Spanish. I’m sure it will be a fantastic opportunity for her and her hubby!

Bugatti Veyron This car has a 16 cylinder, 1001 horsepower engine capable of 0-60 in 2.5 seconds and the top speed is 253MPH. An if you are one of the 300 people in the world willing to spend over a million bucks on a car then this is a great option. Until I win the Texas Lotto I’ll keep dreaming. However, this site is really quite interesting for a car configurator. You can choose the Bugatti recommendations or if you are adventurous you can pick any color combo you want. They have also provided several different views of the car. In addition to the exterior you can also play with the interior colors.

Nabaztag…huh? I have no idea how you pronounce this, but it is a pretty interesting idea. This rabbit has different color lights, the ears move and will play music, read messages, etc. It is kind of like a soft interface for daily tasks. You just plug it in and after you have set it up it uses your wireless network to access information. It is available on for $150. The demo will really do this thing justice.

Flash Charts I ran across a great site that can turn you drab web based charts into animated or static flash graphs. Say you have a bunch of data hanging out in a data base and you want to display that information on the web. Like a user survey for example. You can then take that static image and use Flash scripting to create the chart in Flash on the fly.

More on Maps Flash just released Flash and Flex(think AJAX and Flash combined) API’s. I don’t have any good user examples though. But this makes it that much easier to use flash to customize the map service available through Yahoo.

Speaking of Maps… I finally found a great site that gives a great review of the major mapping services. In this review Yahoo is the winner, but they all have unique offerings. One of the more interesting options that both Google and Yahoo offer is the send-to-mobile option.

PVR goods from Yahoo This week Yahoo announced a new download to the “Go” service I mentioned back in January. They have released a Beta version of software that will allow you to hook up a computer to your TV to listen to music(yours or launchcast), videos(yours or theirs), photos(stored locally or in Yahoo photos) and the big one record TV! They have a limited number of TV capture cards that are supported for the service so I was unable to actually use it on my Media Center at home. I did use the other services and it worked great.

New From Tivo If you are thinking about getting a Tivo now(May 1) is a great time to jump on board. They just released a Dual Tuner Tivo that has built in Ethernet. You can now watch one show while recording another. The built in Ethernet makes transferring files to your computer even easier. Coming soon is the ability to convert your shows for use on your portable media devices like iPod w/Video and Sony PSP. I can’t give details, but it works great and is super easy! 😉

And Finally Pepsi Japan brings us a game to hype a new Pepsi drink called Pepsi Nex. This game uses Flash but specifically uses the On2Video Codec for the running man. The sound effects are pretty funny.