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A comparison of consumer research quality and usability.

Automobile Research Websites

White Paper 6/2/2013

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Contents
Introduction Methods Results Recommendations 2 2 3 4

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Introduction This white paper describes the results of a study comparing three websites regularly used by consumers wanting technical information and comprehensive research prior to a vehicle purchase. Because a vehicle purchase can involve a lengthy and stressful negotiation process involving thousands of dollars, it is important that car research websites offer a streamlined user experience with an inclusive range of technical facts and figures to help consumers plan for a fair car price. Subject Relevancy. Public relations is a broad reaching field that aims to ensure long-term quality relations between any company and its public. A website with reliable and readily accessible information tools builds up a company’s reputation and popularity; an essential goal of external public relations. In this scenario, successful PR ensures the automobile buyer and seller can trust and easily cite information based on the company’s reputation for accuracy and the website’s depth of quality and usability. This white paper will be used to fulfill a graded assignment for a technical writing course, but could potentially serve the test-subject companies for independent quality measurement. If this white paper were to be used in Technology Today it would be placed in the Transportation column. Test Sites. The websites examined in this white paper were NADA.com, Edmunds.com and KBB.com. These websites were selected because each is regularly used and cited by every-day vehicle purchasers and sellers in negotiating a fair selling price. The usability test was an informal walk-through conducted by myself, the author. Methods To perform this test, I adhered to a scenario in which I (the user) expected to buy a used car for fair market price and also use the website to find an available selection near the Boise, Idaho 83702 zip code. This timed test specifically researched the recommended price on a white 2011 Subaru Forester Wagon 5D X AWD in excellent condition with manual transmission, a roof rack, alloy wheels and 30,000 odometer miles. To comprehensively gauge user accessibility, each test began with a Google search using the same search phrase “used car price guide.” The study gauged:      Search Engine Accessibility Website Usability Consumer Research Accessibility Recommended Price Result Time

This test was conducted in the Boise Public Library using Google Chrome on a personal laptop computer with the library’s WiFi internet.

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Results Consumer research for a white 2011 Subaru Forester Wagon 5D X AWD in excellent condition with manual transmission, a roof rack, alloy wheels and 30,000 odometer miles. Task Search Engine Accessibility NADA.com Localized irritant. NADA was the first Google search result, but the link was dead and took over one minute to redirect to the homepage. Good. The process of pricing-out a used car was quick once I finally reached the homepage. Edmunds.com Good. This was the third-down search result with a working link to the homepage. KBB.com Good. This was the second-down search result with a working link to the homepage.

Website Usability

Consumer Research Accessibility

Recommended Dealer Price User Note

Excellent. Results offered four detailed pricing scenarios with a comprehensive consumer research guide. An independent link showed 6 area matches for sale. $18,725 All the results I could want were taborganized on one page, making a lengthy research process organized and quick. 5 minutes

Semi-local disruption. The wording of the links and layout of the homepage made finding the used-car pricing difficult. Good. Unlike NADA, the pricing factored in more details like the color and the roof rack. Any consumer research and area matches required independent site navigation. $17,887 Trying to find the consumer research for a used-car was also difficult and finally required using the search-bar. 3:30 minutes

Excellent. Unlike Edmunds, KBB offered a quick, streamlined route to used-car pricing.

Excellent. Results offered pricing for excellent condition and included a comprehensive consumer research guide with a link to search for area matches. $19,625 The search result page conveniently offered to compare this model with other Subaru models or similar vehicles. 2 minutes

Total Time

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Discussion. Search engine accessibility, website usability and consumer research accessibility were scored using the following terms and rating scale, with 4 being the best score and 1 being the worst score: 4. Excellent- a pleasing user experience with no suggestions for task improvement 3. Good- a satisfactory user experience that met basic expectations for task 2. Irritant- user experienced minor problems that delayed task completion 1. Disruption- a discouraging user experience with interference to task The three scores from each test in this scenario were then averaged to rate the overall usability of each company’s website tools. Recommendation KBB. Kelley Blue Book offered the highest pricing point but also offered top-notch overall usability and accessibility of information through their website, which could explain their popularity with automobile sellers. KBB received a 3.6 of 4 points possible for usability. NADA. The National Automobile Dealers Association would have scored higher if not for the problem of the faulty link from the Google search results page and the slow redirect. This company offered the middle price point and the most comprehensive results page which makes them equally useful to both sellers and buyers. NADA received 3 of 4 points possible for usability. Edmunds. Edmunds offered the lowest pricing point, which should encourage car buyers to cite their price point in purchasing negotiations, but the website showed overwhelming preference for new-car consumers. Finding the necessary price points and consumer research for used-cars was unnecessarily difficult. Edmunds received 2.3 of 4 points possible.