Archive for May, 2016

On car configurators

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

I’ve recently gone into another cycle of find-a-new-car. I do this now and then to stay in touch with what is currently on market and what I could buy if my trusty Civic dies unexpectedly.

What I’ve seen (again) is that the state of car configurators and comparison tools has not progressed a lot since I first started seeing them in about 2000 when working on a website for Renault. That’s why I like buying cars from Asian brands (actually Japanese brands) – they have a small number of trims and not a lot of things you can add, which makes for a simple decision process. The european brands however will basically sell you an engine with a steering wheel and a set of wheels and then let you add on whatever you want/need so that you actually buy a car – I’m exaggerating here, but not long ago BMW had manual rear windows in the default trim.

The state of the art seems to be adding numbered codes to equipment and then listing them in packages, sometimes online even notifying the user about the incompatibilities when selected (which is sometimes fun – I still can’t configure a Renault car).

The funny thing when comparing trims/models is the fact that there seem to be no links between items, which sometimes means that you’ll have a “Steering wheel” and some trims will not have it – cause they have “Leather steering wheel” a page lower (intentionally selected these cause you can’t solve this with a sort).

Modelling features seems somewhat simple:

  • title
  • description
  • price
  • includes features
  • not with features
  • applies to models

If you try to normalize this you will quickly notice that it gets highly confusing when you have the same commercial title for a feature pack that includes less features and is priced lower because it only applies to high-end trims.

If you’ve ever done this before you can also imagine this conundrum makes for a very fun UI experience – some features only apply to automatic transmission models, some only to models with a certain engine or number of doors. Let’s not even start with special editions…

What do you do to deal with all this mess?