Friday, November 06, 2009

Why are automotive web sites so ugly and disorganized?

We need to replace our decrepit 12 yo Subaru Legacy wagon. It's done well -- geeky, plain, does the job. It'd be perfect but for the cup holders (problem with manual trans) and the mileage.

It's not easy. I can't find anything like it on the market today (all wheel drive wagon); if the 2005 Outback were still sold I'd buy it immediately (the 2010 model is awful).

So we've been visiting lots of automotive web sites, like Toyota's. As a rule, they're remarkably lousy in a remarkable number of ways. Aesthetically, they're ugly. Poor layout, weak icons, muddy fonts, garish colors, clashing boxes -- the web equivalent of geek clothing. Functionally they're mostly missing the kind of information we're looking for, and few have useful imaging (ex: would need to include human forms to provide scale information).

Why is this? The auto industry may be troubled, but it's a trillion dollar worldwide business. Surely they could afford a few million to hunt down the people who do Apple's web site* and hire them away.

Most large traded companies make very odd choices. Apple is the bizarre exception, probably because Jobs is a force of nature.

* Heck, they could just point someone at the site for the latest iMac, steal everything and paste in some auto images and text.

Update: In a weird bit of synchronicity, within hours of writing this, Daring Fireball linked to an explanation of why American Airlines web site design sucks. It's exactly what I imagine is true of most corporate web sites -- huge teams, lots of hands, lots of politics, lots of executives deciding aesthetics.
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