Car Design Page

October 3, 2007

So our crack team of three founders have a ton of coding, Internet, used car, and entrepreneurial skills but we admittedly lack in one area that is rather critcal to a successful web company….design.  To this point, our lead (and when I say lead, I mean only) developer Eric has knocked out the majority of the design, other than the logo that Logoworks cranked out for us based on our other founder’s concept.  I think Eric has done a rather admirable job on the site and its very respectable for this stage.  That being said, each new design initiative is a major project for our team and takes many more man hours than if one of us had true design skills.  We drool over the Internet design by masters like Dan Cederholm, but we just don’t and probably won’t possess those kinds of design chops anytime soon

Our design “problem” creates some interesting discussion within our team as we have to even the balance between what changes are necessary design-wise compared to product development for less design centered ideas.  I thought the blog readers might find it interesting to see what we are currently debating in order to get a glimpse into what we are thinking/doing on a daily basis in addition to selling cars.

Every vehicle on our site has a Car Detail Page (CDP) that shows all of the details for each vehicle.  I have a personal affinity at the moment for the Range Rover Sport, and its CDP can be seen here: Land Rover Sport.  Eric will tell you that Range Rover’s are junk (he’s a Honda guy), but I love their look and would love to upgrade to one once I get rid of my Chevy Avalanche.  The CDP is an extremely crucial page on our site, maybe even more so than the homepage, as the majority of our traffic enters our site currently through CDP pages.  Many of our cars are listed on Craigslist and these cars link directly to their corresponding CDP’s.

Thus, we want the CDP to convert our traffic into qualified buyer leads.  We feel that our current CDP design is somewhat confusing for a few reasons.  The spacing below the pictures of the vehicle and the condition and option reports below it are way off and we’ve found that a lot of our visitors don’t ever realize that all of those juicy car facts are waiting for them if they scroll down the page.  Moreover, there is no sort of education about Evenlevel and someone unfamiliar with our site gets dropped into a CDP page and has no idea about how our process works or even where our used cars come from.  Additionally, if a customer gets to a CDP page for an expired vehicle, we’re not doing a sufficient job in telling them that the vehicle is in fact expired and then taking the next step and directing them to active vehicles that fit their search criteria.

All of the three founders have taken a crack at some form of the redesign and I started mine yesterday afternoon.  I spent about 4 hours on it and I think that another 3 or 4 hours of work today and I’ll have a version that I like…pending approval from the other two founders.  The worry is that we spend too much time on this and not enough time on other critical features.  But for the time being the CDP redesign is at the top of our list.  I’ll let everyone know once we’ve rolled out the latest version. With all of the creative energy going into the CDP, it is starting to feel like the car design page more than the car detail page.

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Yes Mom, I’m a Dealer

September 18, 2007

One of the more interesting parts of starting Evenlevel has been the fact that I get to tell people that I am now a used car dealer….actually a licensed used car dealer.  When I tell people the news, I always get a bit of a funny reaction and yes, I find myself telling people this with an overly sheepish grin on my face.  Why is this?

I was reminded of the industry’s reputation again yesterday as I read a great blog post from an up-and-coming personal finance site Mint.com. The article says:

Greedy dealers will do anything to nickel-and-dime you and jump as much money out of your pockets as possible. Some outright lie. Some even break the law. Just be warned that these dealers aren’t always Boy Scouts, and reading this article is preparing you for many of the steps you can take to avoid a bad deal.

 I was trying to think of any profession that has the name “dealer” in it that seemed somewhat reputable.  Let’s see, drug dealer (no), arms dealer (no), art dealer (YES!), and then car dealer (again, no).  So we’re stuck with illegal activities, car dealers, and art.  I’m glad that art dealers have stuck around, my dad, Brad Clever is an artist and does amazing work and of course I’m happy that a reputable profession has stuck with the name “dealer” and can move his wares.

 Why do car dealers specifically get a bad rap?  I’ve come to the conclusion that they’ve earned it.  The other founders (I promise I’ll refer to them by name once they’ve introduced themselves) and I have had quite a few business development meetings over the past few month, several of which have been with car dealers, and we’ve learned that the reputation of used car dealers in particular has been somewhat…..well…..earned.

 Why do we as consumers have to go to a dealership and worry about bargaining down the price of a car?  How about you show me your lowest price and let me decide if I want to buy at that price or not, and oh why you’re at it, how about you tell me something useful about the cars I’m looking at that would help me determine if the car is a good fit for me or not.  Also, why do dealers have to go back and forth to their “manager” so many times during the negotiation process of a car?  I could go on and on about dealer tactics and the slimy sales tactics of many dealers out there, but you all know the story.  Don’t get me wrong their are plenty of reputable and up front dealers out there, but the whole industry has a reputation for a reason.  At Evenlevel we’re trying to tackle this reputation head on and hopefully offer a better place to buy a car.

In recent years Carmax has done a great job of getting people through their doors by offering a “no-haggle” shopping experience.  They’ve got huge “feel good” dealerships throughout the country and have really refined their sales process so that its hard not to buy a car when you walk through their doors.  We whole-heartedly believe in this no-haggle philosophy as well.  Evenlevel does not have the huge overhead and advertising expenditures that Carmax deals with and we’re able to crush them on pricing and put more money back into the pockets of our customers.  The great thing is that we’re able to do this with a ton of transparency and with none of the guilt that I’m sure every used car dealer feels.

I have told my mother about this business, and our commitment to transparency and making the used car buying process easier and cheaper, and I feel that she can proudly tell her friends that her son, Harvard degree and all, is a used car salesman.