Defining the Best Car Dealer Website

For car dealerships, having a good website is essential for attracting customers as well as building and maintaining a brand image that will help to finalise sales. What is a good automotive website, though? In this article, we will provide our explanation.

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How to assess the quality of a website

It is important to have objectivity, not subjectivity, when assessing website quality. However, if there are subjective elements, you should approach these through the lens of your target customer.

These are the areas that we would use to assess overall website quality:

Aesthetics: Does the website look good and portray the correct image of the brand it is representing? We cover this in more detail in this blog post.

Content Quality: Is the content valuable, unique and well formulated? This includes text/website copy, images and other media content on the site.

Navigability: How easy and intuitive is getting to the typical places I want to visit?

Design: Is the website presented in a way that fulfils its purpose across all relevant device types? There are many different approaches to this, and there is no 'one size fits all'. There is more detail on these approaches below.

Functionality: Does the website use modern technology to provide useful interactive functionality for the user?

Visibility: Is the website highly visible on search engines like Google and Bing when users search for relevant terms?

Reliability: Does the website work consistently?

What should a good automotive website do?

Before delving into the methods, we will look at the outcomes that define a good website in this sector. These may seem obvious, but when speaking to car dealers, it is often said that a website is good or bad because of the way it looks. This is a highly subjective way of deciding what a good website is, let alone the best one. This is not to say that appearance is not important; it just isn't the only thing and often isn't the main factor.

Attract Potential Customers

A good website can attract potential customers who are searching for a new or used car online. In fact, according to a study by Google, 95% of car buyers use digital channels to research their purchases. A car dealership with a good website that is easy to navigate, visually appealing, and provides detailed information about its stock can help to attract potential customers and drive more leads to the dealership.

Showcase Stock and Offers

A car dealership website should showcase its inventory with clear, high-quality images and detailed descriptions. A good website can help to make a positive first impression on potential customers, build trust and increase the likelihood of a sale. In addition, a well-designed website can help to differentiate the dealership from its competitors and increase its perceived value.

Build Trust with Consumers

A good website can also help to build trust with consumers. A professional-looking website with accurate and up-to-date information can help to establish the dealership's credibility and make potential customers feel more comfortable doing business with them. A website that is easy to navigate, provides clear contact information, and has positive customer reviews can help to further build trust and encourage potential customers to visit the dealership in person.

Provide Useful Information

A good website should provide useful information to potential customers. This can include information about financing options, warranty information, and service and maintenance programs. Providing this information on the website can help to answer potential customer questions and make the car buying process easier and more convenient.

Provide a Good Experience

A good website can improve the customer experience by making it easier for customers to find the information they need, schedule appointments, and even make purchases online. By providing a seamless online experience, a dealership can increase customer satisfaction and encourage repeat business.

Young creative business people at office

How Does a Website Achieve These Outcomes?

Now that we have defined what good outcomes look like, we will turn to the methods employed to achieve them. It is really important for car dealers to understand these concepts at a high level because it is easy for them to be misrepresented by a website designer who could combine some of these concepts as 'buzz words' with a flashy-looking webpage and instil an unjustified sense of confidence in a dealership who will then be frustrated with the results. Sadly this is not as uncommon as it sounds.

A website can be optimised for various purposes, such as user experience (UX), customer experience (CX), conversion rate optimisation (CRO), and search engine optimisation (SEO). Each optimisation approach focuses on different aspects of website performance and serves different purposes.

The following four types of optimisation are often referred to in website sales pitches as being covered and, on occasion, interchangeably. However, they are related but also very different concepts that need to be looked at and interrogated separately.

Website Optimisation Techniques

Optimisation techniques are those that ensure a website performs optimally in a specific way. The following four types of optimisation are often referred to in website sales pitches as being covered and, on occasion, interchangeably. However, they are related but also very different concepts that need to be looked at and interrogated separately.

User Experience (UX) Optimisation

UX optimisation is the process of improving the overall user experience of a website. It focuses on making the website easy to use, navigate, and understand. UX optimisation includes elements such as website design, layout, content structure, and accessibility. The goal of UX optimisation is to create a website that is user-friendly and provides a positive experience to the user.

Customer Experience (CX) Optimisation

CX optimisation is the process of improving the overall experience of a customer with a brand. It involves every interaction a customer has with the brand, including their experience on the website. CX optimisation includes elements such as customer service, product quality, and after-sales support. The goal of CX optimisation is to create a positive relationship with the customer that leads to loyalty and repeat business.

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

CRO is the process of optimising a website to increase the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action, such as filling out a form, making a purchase, or downloading a brochure. CRO includes elements such as website design, copywriting, and user experience. The goal of CRO is to increase the conversion rate of the website and improve the return on investment (ROI) of digital marketing efforts.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO is the process of optimising a website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO includes elements such as keyword research, content optimisation, and link building. The goal of SEO is to improve the visibility of the website in search engine results and increase organic traffic.

Optimisation Cheat Sheet

To summarise: Each of these optimisation techniques is important for a website in different ways:

  • UX optimisation is important because it improves the user experience and makes the website easy to use, which can lead to higher engagement and customer satisfaction.
  • CX optimisation is important because it creates a positive relationship with the customer, which can lead to loyalty and repeat business.
  • CRO is important because it increases the conversion rate of the website, which can lead to higher revenue and ROI.
  • SEO is important because it increases the visibility of the website in search engine results, which can lead to higher organic traffic and brand awareness.

Links with Website Aesthetics

It is important to note that a website that is optimised for each of the previously mentioned techniques may not necessarily be the most attractive website. While an attractive design can help to create a positive user experience, there are other factors that contribute to a website's effectiveness. For example, a website that is optimised for CRO may need to prioritise functionality over aesthetics to achieve the desired conversion rate. Ultimately, the goal of website optimisation is to create a website that is both attractive and effective. By optimising UX, CX, CRO, and SEO, businesses can create a website that is user-friendly, creates a positive relationship with customers, increases conversion rates, and improves search engine visibility. An attractive design can certainly contribute to this, but it is not the only consideration.
To achieve optimal website performance, dealerships should focus on all of these optimisation techniques in a balanced way. By improving the user experience, creating a positive customer experience, increasing the conversion rate, and improving search engine visibility, businesses can achieve a strong online presence and drive growth.

Different Design Approaches Explained

There are many different approaches to designing websites. This means that dealerships have the freedom to choose the approach that works for them. This is not the same as selecting the platform or software on which to build an automotive website, as explained in this blog post.

How Important is mobile-first design in Automotive?

The fact that this question is asked so frequently is a consequence of the term's overuse in describing certain approaches to automotive website design. In this section, we will describe some common website design techniques, including mobile-first, so that dealerships can determine whether a design they are being offered follows a mobile-first approach or a different approach, as well as determine which approach might work best for them. Some popular approaches are broken down here:

Responsive website design

This approach uses fluid grid systems and flexible images to ensure that a website's layout adjusts smoothly to different screen sizes. The design is based on breakpoints that dictate how the layout will change as the screen size changes. Responsive design is popular because it is relatively easy to implement and ensures that the website looks good on any device.

Mobile-first design

This approach involves designing a website specifically for mobile devices first and then scaling up to desktop sizes. This approach ensures that the website is optimised for the smallest screens, which is important given the increasing number of users who access websites from mobile devices.

Adaptive website design

This approach uses predefined layout templates that are designed to fit specific screen sizes. Adaptive design can be more complex than responsive design, as it requires multiple templates to be created for different screen sizes. However, it can provide a more tailored experience for users on specific devices.

Dynamic serving

This approach involves serving different HTML and CSS depending on the device that is accessing the website. The server detects the device and serves the appropriate code. This approach can provide a highly tailored experience for users on different devices, but it can be complex to implement.


RESS (Responsive Web Design with Server-Side Components) is an approach that uses a combination of client-side and server-side components to optimise the website for different devices. The server detects the device and serves optimised HTML and CSS, which can improve the website's performance on slower devices.

Progressive Web Apps

This approach involves designing a website that looks and feels like a native app on a mobile device. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are designed to be fast, reliable, and engaging, and they can work offline, which is useful for users with poor internet connectivity.

Summary of Approaches

Each of these approaches has its own strengths and weaknesses and may be more suitable for certain types of websites or audiences. For example, PWAs are particularly useful for businesses that want to provide a fast and engaging experience for mobile users, while RESS may be more suitable for websites that require a lot of server-side processing. Ultimately, the choice of approach will depend on the website's goals, audience, and technical requirements.


Approach Used by Autoweb Design

At Autoweb Design, we have the capability to deliver website builds using any of the aforementioned approaches. We do not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. In cases where speed of delivery and cost control are paramount, we often adopt a hybrid approach which combines elements of responsive and adaptive design to create a website that is optimised for different devices while also providing a tailored experience for specific screen sizes. This means that the website covers all benefits of mobile-first design but does not necessarily have a completely different page template file for every page on every device. It also means that the websites are generally better optimised for tablets and desktop/laptop devices than a mobile-first website which is essentially a version of responsive design but not starting with a mobile design rather than a desktop design.

As the type of website build increases in complexity, we will adopt approaches including those above as it best works for the process, but these would be a form of adaptive design as a minimum, never a simple mobile-first or responsive approach.

The Problem with Mobile-First Design in Automotive

There is a widespread misconception amongst automotive retailers about what mobile-first design is. There are three common beliefs that are not strictly correct:

  1. That Mobile-First is the cutting-edge approach adopted by well-known, modern websites
  2. That Mobile-First is more complex than traditional responsive design
  3. That a mobile-first website is identified by its usability on mobile 

Mobile First Design simply means that someone started the design of the website on the smallest screen, then scaled up using responsive technologies so that elements on the page resize. If this had been done, then you would see a difference in the way the page was designed previously, in a responsive design vs how it is in a mobile-first, and the reasons for those changes should be clear. This is not simple to identify as it is only a designer's attempt at a mobile design. If you start from a design that isn't fully optimised for mobile, there is virtually no difference between a mobile-first and a responsive website designed for desktop.

With this in mind, we suggest that dealerships explore the design approaches, their relative costs both in terms of time and investment and the benefits of each. At Autoweb Design, standard offerings follow a hybrid adaptive approach as a minimum, which is a significant step up in terms of performance for dealerships vs a 'mobile-first' design. 

A Quick Summary of Approaches and General Costs

All of these approaches mentioned aim to create a website that is optimised for different devices and screen sizes. The choice of approach will depend on factors such as the website's goals, audience, and budget.

Bespoke Website Design vs Templated Websites

By bespoke website design, we mean a website that goes through its own design process involving the steps below.

Step 1. Create Information Architecture (Plan of Pages that will exist)
Step 2. Create Wireframes/Prototypes (Layouts of the pages without final styling)
Step 3. Create Styles and visual design features

A Templated website is one where the page templates are pre-built and then populated with content (text/media) and usually include a setting for theme colour/font.

Templated websites are the fastest and lowest cost method of deploying a car dealer website because the build process is already done, and any changes are done via a content management system (CMS). There are fewer decisions to make or time to spend working out how to optimise your website. For small dealerships or new dealerships who don't have a lot of user behaviour data, this is a great way to go as long as you choose a template that is at least in-part adaptive in its approach, not a basic responsive or mobile-first template. This is because you then know that it has been properly optimised for the things that have been described in this article.

A bespoke website design is not the same as a bespoke website build which typically involves a single code base for a website with all components built from a blank page and coded from scratch. There are many drawbacks to an approach like this, and it is seldom used, as explained in our article on website platforms and CMS.

Costs of Different Bespoke Website Design Approaches

A good way to think about the expense required for a website design process is by considering the complexity and number of different page base template files that need to be created to deliver the design.

For example, in a responsive website, you might have a single page base template for each type of page on the website, which is then used to build the page for all devices in one go-through configuration. In an adaptive approach using dynamic serving, you would require multiple files for each page type so a tailored page can be delivered across different devices.

This is an over-simplification, and the number of files is not always directly dictated by the approach, but the number of ways that the code must generate pages is so the analogy works.
In order of complexity (and therefore cost, provided you are being offered value-for-money)

Lowest Cost & Fastest Delivery: Responsive or Mobile-First Design - One design that is resized for different screens

Medium Cost: Adaptive Hybrid approaches that tailor key parts of the site, such as conversion pages for each device type.

Highest Cost & Longest Execution Time: Complex adaptive designs involving RESS or dynamic serving in unique ways.

So - What Defines the Best Car Dealer Website Out There?

In our opinion, the following would apply to the best car dealership website out there right now. Who's that is will constantly change, but we hope that this article will enable automotive retailers to better scrutinise proposed websites beyond surface-level gimmicks to raise the bar for website performance, which is good for the dealerships who will see improvements in ROI and consumers who will have a better buying experience.

Our List

  • Aesthetics: There is a consistent look and feel and visual hierarchy. It has visual interest but in a consistent way throughout the site. The styles are a proper reflection of the brand, and the colour scheme is well-thought-through.
  • Content Quality: The content tells users about insights that the dealership has, based on its brands, stock profile, services and location(s). The content is unique, well written and not written for
  • SEO but for website visitors. Any media is of high quality.
  • Navigability: Navigation is easy to read and intuitive so that you can get to where you want to quickly
  • Design: As a minimum, it has adaptive elements built into it, presenting itself in a tailored way on different devices to ensure users experience everything listed in this section, no matter what device they are using.
  • Functionality: The website uses useful technology such as integrations to enhance the customer experience, making full use of open architectures.
  • Visibility: The website appears highly in search engine results (including Google and Bing) for the keywords and locations that are relevant to its business.
  • Reliability: The website is built on robust architecture with a codebase that is maintained and ideally not only used for the single website. It should be compatible with all in-life browsers.
  • Performance: The website should convert at a high rate across all devices, consistently both in terms of calls and online form fills.
  • Integration: The website should integrate with all systems that produce data that can be optimised. This should include a custom web analytics setup to enable post-launch optimisation and continual improvement.
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Request a free audit and analysis of your automotive website.