DonnaM » Blog Archive » Reducing the learning curve

Reducing the learning curve

In my last post, one of the things I most criticised Peugeot for was providing navigation based on a series of numbers, and making me decipher the numbering system before I could start to learn about their cars.

This numbering system (or strange names) problem exists throughout the car industry. It is just one of the things that a consumer needs to learn before starting to navigate the car world. It has been around for a long time, is fairly embedded, and there are plenty of people who know the system. Just not everyone.

The thing that we can do, as user experience designers, is to make sure things work on both levels – to provide ease of access to those who know the system, and help people who don’t know the system to learn it quickly – to lower the barrier to entry.

So given I’ve been spending too much time on car websites recently, I thought it would be worth looking at some examples of how some brands are managing this.

High learning curves

First, here’s the some bad examples.

Peugeot’s model range page is based on numbers and provides no further information:

The model range page, showing an image and larger numbers

Alfa Romeo doesn’t have a ‘models’ landing page so the only entry is through the navigation in the middle of the page. A simple addition would be to add the model name to the scrolling banner image – at least I could then watch the image and get an idea:

Alfa Romeo home page - model numbers in navigation

Citroen are the same – no ‘model’ landing page, so all entry is through the number-based navigation at the top of the page:

Citroen home page - navigation via the numbers in top navigation

Low learning curve: At a glance

Renault and Volkswagen both show names and thumbnails at a glance. Nicely done and easy to understand.

Renault passenger cars page - thumbnails of each car with their model names

VW model page - thumbnails of each car and their names

Audi have a go at it, but the thumnails are a bit small to tell the cars apart (I do like that they show starting price here – that’s handy too):

Audi model page - thumbnail image of each car and its model name

BMW tries as well, but the images are too busy to see detail of the car:

BMW automobiles page showing thumbnail and models
This is the most common approach with other manufacturers doing it with varying levels of usefulness

Low learning curve: Easy to reach

Fiat has a ‘Model range’ widget on the home page that lets you scroll through the range, so you can visually connect the picture to the name:

Fiat thumbnail and name

Fiat thumbnail and name

Low learning curve: details on hover

Saab have thumbnails of the models on the home page, with good detail on hover (and consistent navigation options for each):

Saab home page showing details for one model

Holden too have a ‘more details on hover’, interestingly attached to flyout navigation (I did nearly miss this though):

Holden navigation showing thumbnail

Just goes to show, it is possible to do better…

And now I should get back to work and stop thinking about cars (though ping me if you love/hate your recent-model Peugeot, Alfa or Fiat).

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7 Responses to “Reducing the learning curve”

  1. Stephen Collins Says:

    I agree with everything you’re saying here. Car purchasing is designed for people who really want the car, rather than browsing. That said, I’ve been using to side-by side compare cars for us.

    They don’t make it obvious at the top of the site, but the link is

    Of course, you still need to know the make and model of the cars you want to compare. And it’s not perfect, but it’s better. You can also get links to independent reviews and do a “differences only” comparison which is very useful if you’re comparing similar cars, even across makes.

  2. Donna Spencer Says:

    Thanks Steve – carpoint was recommended to me by someone else this week. But it will be most useful after I figure out what I want ;)

  3. zuzu Says:

    Hey Donna, we have Alfas at our house but Scott is raving about the new Fiats – some use less petrol than electric cars.

  4. Donna Spencer Says:

    @zuzu – The new Fiat, Alfa and Peugeot diesels are very, very efficient. Their stated consumption is only a little above the Prius.

  5. Brian Says:

    Just to add to the pain of Peugeot’s website, try using their country selector. At first glance it appears to be in alphabetical order. Upon closer inspection, though, it appears almost random. Good luck finding your country in that list!

  6. Donna Spencer Says:

    @Brian – I hadn’t spotted that – I was using the AU website. It looks like it is sequenced as France, near neighbours of France, the rest of the world A-Z ;)

  7. Suffian Says:

    Hi Donna, it’s such a coincidence that you posted about this. I was doing research on car websites just a few weeks ago! I like what Saab did and I think the trend of making the products more of a visual navigation element is a good one; why read marketing hype when you can just point and click the cars that you like, right?

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