Designing car search experience for finance.

During my work at Zuto, we imagined that buying a car should be super easy and whole process should be possible to do on your mobile phone, whenever you are. Customers would be able to apply for the finance, search for a car, and sign and send any necessary documents back to us - without a need of using any external tools or devices.
Market research
People looking for a new car are very traditional. They'll research cars on the market, check their history and they will either pay for it with the money from the bank loan or lease them while sorting out the papers at the dealership. As it has some advantages, it's not always the easiest and fastest way to do it: cars are not always in a condition that they advertised at, dealership might have a bad rep or even a finance APR might be way higher than the on you could actually get.

‍Over 3/4 of car transactions in the UK start on Autotrader.co.uk where people are starting their research. Once they've found their car, they contact directly with the seller to ask about the car.
During my work at Zuto, we imagined that buying a car should be super easy and whole process should be possible to do on your mobile phone, whenever you are. Customers would be able to apply for the finance, search for a car, and sign and send any necessary documents back to us - without a need of using any external tools or devices.
My role
While working for Zuto, I was solely responsible for leading the design and UX direction of My Zuto and upcoming new feature - Dealer car stock search.

My Zuto is the first major step for each of the customers once they apply for their finance. They can always access it to see their application summary, finance decision or even add any cars they would like to get finance for.

Once the cars are added, our client advisors get notified about the details and run history and finance checks to see if there's nothing particularly wrong with the car.

As an UX evangelist within that team, I was responsible for the whole UX cycle: user research, market comparison, interviewing stakeholders, remote and local user testing sessions, wireframing, prototyping and UI design.

During a period of 6 months we've iterated My Zuto multiple times (each time in a slightly different direction) - based on the customer's outcome and squad KPI's. Release of final product was really successful as we've noticed few per cent growth in uploaded cars and registered users month-to-month and gave us a great starting point for an upcoming car search feature.

— Research (Market Analysis, User Interviews)
— Information Architecture
— Wireframing
— Designing
— Prototyping
— User Testing (1 on 1 Usability Testing)
User research
As sole user experience architect on the project I carried out a detailed content audit of their current site in order to understand what content they had and evaluate it's merits. I also produced a competitor analysis document which evaluates the client's main competitors' sites.

I combined my findings from this research with existing market segmentation data to create a set of detailed user journeys Using this combined information I created a set wireframes to satisfy the new scenarios, which then fed into the creation of a site map and a set of process flow diagrams. The diagrams identify key paths through the site (including the "happy path"), which informed the subsequent design and development process.

User testing
Once the basic prototype was ready, we've started recruiting people to test in the lab and find as many pain points as possible. In first scenario we've asked our users to apply for the finance on their mobile phone and desktop pc. For their second task they were asked to add few cars that they've found online. We've been testing our prototype with the users after few sprints where we were solving issues found in the previous sessions. From time to time I've conducted design studio sessions with my team to sparkle creative ideas and try out different UI patterns.

We carried out eye-tracking usability tests with our prototype and group interviews to learn more about behaviours of our target group.

Stress and pleasure

We deconstructed and analysed each of these moments to determine the level of stress or excitement. It helped us determine which moments were significant for the project.

Stress 😰

When arriving at a dealership, customers felt stressed and nervous. They had to follow different procedures and they believed that they can't trust anything they hear as dealer only wants to close the deal.

Excitement 😲

Pleasing situations are quite rare. Our participants agreed that they are really happy when browsing new cars. Also common pattern for excitement is seeing the car for the first time and driving it back home.
Simplified structure and access to key features
Due to fast growth of My Zuto, we had to prioritise functionalities and focus on the ones that are more important. The more important and most frequently used functions must be accessible easily and quickly. Those tasks which few undertake and even fewer complete can be stored in a less obvious place. This really helped me understand and tackle navigation issues and design a better content architecture. As an outcome, it's really easy for the user to access all of the major features within 2-3 clicks away of the dashboard area.

Finding a better content organization
Zuto provide numerous services through their website (finance application, car search, Gap insurance, part exchange valuation etc.). The current product has a very broad architecture. Even if research about breadth and depth suggest that first is better than second for memory and cognitive load, I chose to reduce the breadth of their product by grouping services together, even if it meant creating new hierarchical levels.

Once we've learned what our users expect to see, and how they've interacted with our very basic prototypes, I've sat down and created wireframes based on early sketches to cover each of the steps in the journey for both mobile and desktop devices. Here's the small selection of designs in both medium and high fidelity that I've created during various iterations.

Our main goal within this project was to create mobile-first car buying experience, that would help the customer in choosing right car within their budget from trusted and background checked dealerships. We've put big emphasis on playful filtering, elastic search that opened "Google-esque" possibilities for lifestyle search and informative full page car adverts.
One of the other major goals of Zuto is to connect customers straight with the car dealerships. To achieve this, I've designed a booking experience that allows potential buyers to book a test drive on any of 50,000+ cars and confirm if they are happy to progress with the finance straight from their smartphone.
After working closely with engineering to bring the designs to life, we launched the test and crossed our fingers. At the project’s inception, we documented two primary indicators of success; higher engagement and improved satisfaction. Fortunately, our users found the experience more engaging and satisfying than ever.

We increased conversion of application forms by 9%, applications by 8%, increased annual revenue by 10%. We've also reduced closing decision time (by average) from 6 days to 2,5 days. ¶

Within 12 months we've managed to completely transform how customers interacted with Zuto. At the beginning informing about the cars was only possible by either email or phone. This was really time consuming for both customers and Zuto's Customer Advisors. Implementing fully personalized car finder allowed customers to shortlist multiple cars, book test drives and make an informed decision without a need of interaction with 3rd parties.

Oh, and the nicest thing to hear - kind words from delighted new and returning customers.
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