How it all started (and ended)
If you take a look at Renocar's website, you'll see a website with a notable design featuring car models; you can book a test drive, configure the "bimmer" of your dreams, or choose stylish accessories. What you may not see as a typical user is what's behind.
As Renocar was running the tender for a web design supplier, we knew the client was going to be demanding and rigorous, expecting only top quality. Looking back, we are delighted the client's first impression of Kurzor was confirmed later on. Renocar realised in the very beginning that our developers were people with a wealth of experience in the web design business, and knew that Kurzor was the right choice. We delivered a website tailored to anything that Renocar needed, being one of the biggest BMW dealers in the Czech Republic:
A website that represents a leading luxury car dealer.
A website the client can edit quickly and independently of the supplier.
A website which syncs the right way and the data are correct at any given moment.
A website that operates reliably.
A fully responsive website displayed on a vast majority of devices.
A website loading images and videos rapidly.
A website you can buy a car from in the near future through its e-shop.
Rome was not built in a day, and Renocar's website did not come at the snap of the fingers. Here is how we reached the goal step by step:
Proposed web design: From input data to fine-tuned wireframes
If you have a strong partner like uLab covering your back, creating a website is a pure joy. It was uLab who formulated Renocar's entire online strategy and gave us the basic inputs to work with. It was not the first time we had run across the same type of a job along with uLab. We knew we could rely on them.
Good quality analysis of the competition, target groups, content strategy and the consequent requirements for the website are all keys to success. We also aligned ourselves along the online promotion plan that was being prepared. We analysed the gradual customer journey through Renocar and its services and found inspiration to improve that journey both online and offline.
It was up to us then to prepare the proposed web design whose deliverable was clickable wireframes, i.e. a basic visual guide to the website. The fundamental advantage of a wireframe is that it can be modified and optimised for various options and functionalities before an expensive, less flexible implementation takes place. We consulted everything regularly with both uLab and Renocar until we fine-tuned the wireframe to optimal functionality and attractiveness. We paid great attention to car model overviews and configurators, the most active elements of the website.
We also saved a lot of the graphic artist's work, so he could propose the visual design of the website without all of us facing a number of decisions which could have been hardly the right ones without the interdependencies being known. At this stage, we leveraged our experience with website usability, user interface designs, and websites.
Proposed graphics design: How to transfer the atmosphere and feeling of prestige from the showroom to the website
The brand image and style are just as important for a BMW dealer as is the website's functionality and how easy it is to understand. So how do you transfer into a graphic design the sensation you feel being surrounded by the luxury of a showroom, being surrounded by eye-pleasing cars of a brand as prestigious as BMW?
We strive for excellence in the craftsmanship of our work, and wanted it to show in the technical and graphic designs of Renocar's website. That's why our graphic artist joined us a few times to visit the showroom in order to absorb the right atmosphere.
We are still delighted that we succeeded on the first try. After some initial adjustments to the "Model Overview" section, a well-oiled machine started churning out multiple new designs of individual pages, each one receiving fewer and fewer objections.
Our graphic artist spent the most time with the design of the individual model pages which use rich visuals to inform about features of the BMW and MINI models. From the start, we approached them as a jigsaw puzzle made of certain well-designed graphic components, and gave Renocar's marketers a free hand in creating the individual models. See for yourself the result for the X5 model.
We made advances on several fronts during the implementation:
technical analysis - data model, infrastructure requirements, and security
front end – graphic coding, web design
back-end – data management, imports
Implementation: Technical analysis
A secure webhost which is configured the right way is the foundation of a successful website. Renocar's legal department defined rather strict requirements for the website's uptime, and the provider's liability for any downtime. The server hosting company received a list of requirements from us, and we decided on the most suitable configuration of the web server together.
What was key in this phase? It was the optimal proposal for the database schema and the synchronisation of cars and products from Renocar's internal system, which runs on a Microsoft platform. We also managed to synchronise images which we proposed to process through optimisation to make sure the image quality, sizes, and parameters matched the recommendations of Google's search engine.
Data synchronisation is performed several times a day. That's why our team tested download speeds on more database server types and PHP configurations. We proposed an approach that meant minimal downtime of the production website.
When you're creating a car dealer website, you need to stick to a few rules. Rule number one is emphasis on sales. Primarily, Renocar sells cars from its inventory, and those must be linked to the presentation of the individual car models. The customer expects to find everything on the website in a format that's easy to understand, categorised, and well arranged.
That's why we proposed transparent filters for models and cars available in stock. If the customer is interested in a car from the inventory, he or she gets a display of the details of a specific car, allowing for a direct purchase. The model presentation looks like a catalogue with an option to place an order through the configurator to have the car manufactured, to ask the dealer any question, or to book a test drive.
Rule number two. Renocar services existing customers in the Service section. And dedicates part of the e-shop to fans, called Accessories & Lifestyle. An introduction of the company and its branches must not be left out, of course.
We have put this all together into a functional infrastructure of one website, which is fully responsive, and loads at high speed despite a large volume of images and videos. That is super important for a luxury car website with a notable design because its customers simply don't want to wait. This is made possible by AJAX (downloading partial pages), Lazy loading images, CCS3 and SVG (advanced style practices) and much more.
Rule number three is the content. A website on this scale requires a high volume of text information. We wanted Renocar's marketers to be able to manage the content on their own, primarily. It is much faster and more flexible than asking a programmer each time and waiting for the result. That's why each part of the website is editable. We also empowered the editors to choose the layout and order of the elements of more complex pages, such as car model details. We tried hard to keep the system simple to use and suitable for everyday usage. We ran a test on several members of Renocar staff and did some more tweaking based on their response.
No matter how good looking your website is, if it didn't have up-to-date data on it, it would be worthless. Renocar is a medium-sized company and it is logical that it's already using existing data management systems for data to be displayed on the website. This concerns mainly the inventory of cars, products categorised under Accessories, and individual car model configurations. All this information on the website gets synced regularly from internal sources.
Before importing the data, we had a lively discussion with Renocar's IT department. Together we tried to eliminate the human factor in data management, whether in the transmission process or during data processing on the website. That helped us achieve a high degree of automation. There are also processes in place to report any possible errors. Even though a large volume of data is being synced, we managed to reduce downtime to a few seconds only, which you hardly notice, affecting only a minimum of the website's sections. A typical visitor does not notice the downtime and it has no effect on the website's functionality.
Going live: A few must-haves before going live
Before releasing the new website into the world, a few must-haves had to be taken care of:
redirecting - by both a manual edit of the redirection list and an automated deduction from the old URL format into the new one
analytics - working together with uLab, we implemented advanced measurements esp. where we expected high visitor interaction, i.e. where the visitor shows his or her interest (forms, configurators)
browser and device testing - the website is quite responsive and we deployed most recent approaches on the front end, which is why we made some modifications for browsers which may have a different opinion on certain things. The biggest troublemaker? MS Edge.
And since we didn't want to leave anything to chance, we took a clone of the production environment one week before going live, and ran a simulated live test on a test domain. We did that in order to catch any bugs that could make Renocar's life (or ours) complicated.
Conclusion: Lessons learned
The lessons and take-aways from working with Renocar:
First of all, we felt reaffirmed that we like complex jobs for demanding clients, and our processes are well prepared for such jobs. We are not a big corporation but a small, specialized team that works efficiently.
We strive for perfect craftsmanship in development. We did our best on this project. We were all sincerely delighted about the result. Our key developer even refused to move on to the next project until he was sure that Renocar's website would be working exactly the way it was supposed to.
There is usually a broader team on the client side, expressing its requests in doses, often contradicting what a colleague said before. We reaffirmed the importance of our competence to manage this dialogue towards an agreement on a single solution to be chosen, if the development is to succeed.
We managed to involve the relevant personnel during the key phases of the project. That helped us obtain extremely useful information based on 30 years' worth of experience, which we were able to take into account in our web development efforts.
We did not sit at a remote desk, trying to design the web from a distance. We learned Renocar from the inside out, from service and maintenance through the showroom to the steering wheels.
Renocar appreciated the fact that they were talking to the owners of Kurzor. They knew they could turn to a specific person who would be available and ready to make a decision.
The client doesn't have to be a website expert. Renocar was our partner and we were Renocar's partner. No one felt any uncertainty. We listened to each other. Both Renocar and Kurzor came up with ideas. Whenever there was anything that didn't make sense, we said so openly.
Testimonials: What was it like working together?
We recommended Kurzor to Renocar because we had done business together on other projects before and we were happy with those. We like their approach. They do whatever it takes for their business, they are fast and they work with new technologies. What we like is that they learn quickly. For example, implementing analytics with them is a walk through a rose garden. Which is quite unusual :)
Markéta Kabátová, CEO, uLab
Five questions for the client
We needed a new website and got a recommendation for Kurzor from uLab. After looking up some more information about Kurzor, we knew they could create the kind of website we needed.
How did it go?
The gents from Kurzor want to know the product they are asked to present, so they learned Renocar inside out. Whenever we needed a meeting to clarify our or their ideas, they were happy to come over or have us over, or to connect via Skype. Once the new website went live, some visitors had comments, and Kurzor sorted them all out immediately.
What do we appreciate?
It's the quick response to any problem – how quickly they found a solution. And it's also how enthusiastic they are about the work they do.
Why the new website?
Virtually anyone spends a lot of time on the internet these days. And if you're looking for something, you're surfing the net, and run across a website that's outdated and insufficient, it only makes you discouraged and wanting to leave. That's why we decided to get the new website.
The website is modern, the design is better than the previous one, and there is more room to publish updates, so yes, Kurzor delivered what we needed.
Petr Poláček, Online Specialist, Renocar