As a self proclaimed petrol-head and a by-day interaction designer, I have an avid interest in online car configurators. On the one hand I love the ability to create my own custom ride. On the other, I can’t help but pay attention to the experience of doing it. Here is a short list of some recent ones that I looked at both the good and the not-as-good.
Bugatti – I think the site is as beautiful as are the cars. While not for everyone, the Veyron is undoubtedly an astounding mash-up of engineering and art. The configurator follows suit, providing an intuitive and engaging experience all the while allowing the User to customize an impressive array of features. I think this is where Bugatti really gets it right. Let your customers actually make the car their own. After all, in the case of the Veryon, those who can afford such a ride deserve to choose what their head rests look like.
Porsche – just like their cars the configurator is precise, detailed and full featured. Although I don’t like that it opens in a new, resized window it is laid out nicely. The flow makes sense and the controls are easy to use. There are almost too many things to choose from if I had to pick something to harp on. But, much like the Bugatti, it’s nice to know that for your money you can get exactly what you want. The experience is all Porsche.
BMW – the Germans know what’s up (natch). I like how the information is laid out. And unlike Porsche’s I like that I stay in the same window so as to maximize my view of the vast (some could say too vast) amount of configurable options, packages, and doohickeys. The 360 degree views are also a nice touch (exterior and interior). Good use of tabs, but I think they are too light as to make each one look disabled. They also chose to double up on navigation points by offering a secondary way to the next screen in the lower right under the data sheet. I like this but like the drab tabs, I think some color would work well on those navigation buttons.
Aston Martin – while it’s definitely great looking, the Aston configurator is not spectacular. The cars on the other hand are and this makes using the limited tool easier to deal with. Overall the navigation affordance is not strong but the user is given a decent amount of configuration to make using the interface fun enough to come back for more. And, what a great looking car!
Ford – while I’m not a huge fan of the Mustang, I wanted to give the configurator a try. In a word: lame. Despite a major lack of user options, the interface is cramped, and needlessly tiny and suffers from Flash anxiety; never quite sure what it’s supposed to do next. I think in this case, marketing would have better spent their time on something else. Like convincing the design team to come up with a better looking car.
Lamborghini - don’t let the fancy car fool you. There is nothing configurable about this configurator. In fact, it’s not really a configurator as much as it is a ill-designed brochure for the new Aventador. The navigation is hard to discover and once you do it doesn’t give you any indication of where you are. Maybe this is all part of the mystique of owning a Lamborghini. Or maybe someone’s nephew designed it one weekend afternoon.