Who else thinks car manufacturers’ websites are too hard to navigate?

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Have you recently bought a new car or shopped online? Then you will have noticed that some car manufacturers’ retail websites are absolutely crap.

We can’t be the only ones who find some of them difficult to navigate and overly concerned with looking slick and giving you superficial thumbnails of the imaginary life you might have with their car instead of giving you easy access to the information you need to decide whether you really want to buy the car or not.

Far too many of them have fancy sliding shutters, embedded videos that give almost no useful information, and are punctuated by glossy, airbrushed images accompanied by superficial marketing waffles that tell you nothing. I approach those “Explore” buttons with dread because you know that as soon as you click you’re going to be sent down an empty promotional rabbit hole which is the website equivalent of one of those meandering paths through the cigarettes, perfumes and liquor sections in an airport.

Configurators on some sites offer almost no meaningful description of an option that may seem completely unfamiliar, despite the presence of a pop-up supposed to help you. But my biggest gripe is how hard it can be to find a simple, old-fashioned chart showing a car’s technical specifications and standard (and optional) equipment, and even better, a chart that compares the different finishing qualities. It’s the kind of thing you used to get in a printed brochure, and can still sometimes get if you can find a digital brochure to download.

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VW’s homepage looks like it was designed by a 10-year-old, but spec comparisons on model pages like this are welcome

Now, I understand that your average mother looking for a new car won’t be annoyed that she can’t find the matching engine speed figure for peak torque in a hybrid minivan. But some of us care about these things because we want to be able to compare the specs of competing cars.

Volkswagen, on the other hand, takes things to the extreme, even giving you the individual gear ratios for its cars, which is pretty niche in 2022: “You know Marg, I was looking at that Jetta, but I just got out from the VW website. and it turns out it uses a 1.47:1 fourth gear, so I think we’ll go with the Camry instead. Even Porsche doesn’t give you that kind of information.

Overall though, the Porsche website is good, in our opinion. It’s logically laid out, the home page displaying an image of each model accompanied by a button to access the configurator, and another to find out more about the car. Click the button to find out more about a model, say the 718 Boxster, and you can then swipe sideways through the different trim grades, each given a suitable profile picture along with a price, horsepower nominal and performance. if we’re picky, an mpg number would be more useful than a top speed figure.

And if you want to dive into the proper tech specs, which the car guys tend to want to do, you hit a simple, easy to find button labeled ‘tech specs’ and you get a full breakdown of the horsepower figures and torque, economy figures and dimensions. The only real catch with Porsche’s site is that the cars are so expensive that the majority of car buyers won’t take advantage of them.

So why are some other automakers making such a mess of the same task? Which brand websites do you find useful and easy to navigate, and which might just as well be displayed in plain HTML, rather than just coded? Leave a comment and let us know.

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