I’ve never bought a car online—and don’t know anyone who has. Frankly, the interfaces of most online automotive retailers aren’t terribly inviting. Sites like Cars.com, Carvana, and Autotrader read a little dated, and more like price-comparison sites of a different variety: travel. And we know how much consumers love the opaque and frustrating experience of purchasing airplane tickets. The only user experience worse than that might be navigating your insurance options. Or filing taxes. So safe to say, these kinds of car-buying sites didn’t have much curb appeal.
That’s bad. Because as a young woman, I’m a key demographic that one of those sites—TrueCar—was missing. “A main driver of our rebrand was to resonate with women, who make or influence 82% of vehicle purchases in the U.S.,” says Lucas Donat, chief brand officer of TrueCar, which recently refreshed its 15-year-old brand. “In an exhaustive set of research, the new logo beats all other brands in the category in the measure of likability among women.”
That logo (along with the company’s new site and app) was designed by partner Michael Gericke and his team at Pentagram. The team dropped the slate-blue logo, softened and rounded its letterforms, and added colorful and dimensional gradients to “car” to evoke the variety of choice on the site. Dare I say the result is not unlike a sophisticated Comic Sans?
The team designed the revamped website and app to be similarly approachable. One of the difficulties of buying a car—whether in person or online—is that a consumer often does so in a marketplace without a fixed price or seller, two reasons “almost everyone absolutely dreads the process of buying a car,” Gericke told Co.Design. So establishing a sense of consumer confidence and trust is both difficult and essential for companies in this industry.
Gericke and his team took on the particular design challenge in a few different ways. For one, the site interface is cleaner, with welcoming “vibrant and uplifting” animated and illustrated visuals, according to Pentagram. The UX also has new functionality that lets the user personalize how they interact with car dealers, discovery tools for new vehicles, and an improved matching algorithm for used cars. But they also reframed the site as a place to learn, so that, armed with information, the consumer can be confident in the decisions they make.
Another goal of the visuals, which feature illustrations of car owners and buyers, was to reestablish the emotional connection between consumers and the role cars play in their lives. The new branding is “infused with a sense of optimism to convey you know you’re getting a good deal, from someone you trust, that’s just for you, and it can truly be an uplifting experience,” Gericke says.
In an industry known for its tendency toward drawn-out dealmaking and haggling to get the “best price,” designing those values into a brand experience is a smart move to reintroduce consumers to the process—especially if they don’t know where to begin. I, for one, would be more apt to give the experience of buying a car online a try. That is, if I didn’t live in New York City, ride the subway to work, and have a paralyzing fear of parallel parking.