The Ugly Truth: Car Shoppers are Judging Your Website

By Jazel Auto Marketing

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Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know looks matter. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is all well and good, but it’s hardly the way those of us in the car business work.

Like it or not, appearances matter – to online shoppers as much as anyone else – and the appearance of your website can be the difference between a customer and another car gathering dust on the lot.


Shoppers Judge Quickly  

As we all learned in middle school, judgment on looks is painfully quick. People get their first impressions of others in 1/10th of a second. First impressions are formed in, literally, a fraction of a second. It only takes 50 milliseconds  to form a solid first impression of a website.

After that first impression, people spend a brief amount of time on certain elements:

  • Logo: 6.48 seconds
  • Main Navigation Menu: 6.44 seconds
  • Search Box: 6 seconds
  • Main Image: 5.94 seconds
  • Written Content: 5.59 seconds
  • Bottom of Website: 5.25 seconds

All in all, people take very little time to take in the whole of a website. And not only do people take very little time to form an impression, what matters most is undoubtedly appearance.


Shoppers Judge On Design  

If that isn’t enough to convince you that looks are important online, get this: first impressions are 94% design related. A British study measuring trust on health websites found that 94% of feedback relating to first impressions was design-related.

People notice good or bad design quickly, and it’s important to them. The vast majority of people won’t trust or even bother to read a website if the design doesn’t appeal to them.


Design Matters More Than Functionality  

We’re obsessed with usability, but even we know that there is something more powerful: design.

Appearance is a winner. This has been confirmed in bars around the word, but also, and more importantly, in scientific studies.

One study looked at the effects of visual appeal and usability on performance and satisfaction, and, as we’re sure you can guess by now, design trumps everything. Websites that had high visual appeal but low usability had high levels of interest – and websites with high usability but low visual appeal were given low interest ratings.

Now obviously this doesn’t mean abandoning usability. 76% of people say the most important characteristic of a website is ease of use. It’s just essential to remember that good design is part of good customer experience (CX), just like usability, and you need to ace CX in order to have a really good website.



It feels like we’re being shallow in this blog post, and, to be honest, we kind of are. But part of being in this business is not shying away from reality.

Reality is that appearance, or website design, in this case, matters a whole lot. Good website design helps to draw shoppers in, get them interested, build trust and credibility, and then let them listen to what you have to say (or sell). Good design goes deeper than aesthetics – it helps establish a dealership as a leader, a trustworthy presence in the community, a professional and reliable establishment, and a dealership like that undoubtedly sells more cars.