Carwise: Purchase Flow

Carwise: A laptop and mobile phone with an image of a car. It shows how the website follows responsive design principles.

Overview

This case study explores the purchasing process of a pre-owned car website that offers users an easy way to trade in their current vehicle, obtain extended warranties, receive assistance with financing, and access car insurance options from a third-party vendor.

Role

Product Designer

Brand Creation, User Research, Competitive Analysis, Logo Design Interaction, Visual Design, Prototyping Testing

How might we?

How might we create a all-in-one website that takes all the stress out of buying a pre-owned car?

interview transcripts

Interviews

To understand my interviewees’ recent vehicle purchases, I aimed to learn the timeline of their most recent acquisition and gather details on their experiences. Specifically, I probed into any frustrations or pain points they encountered during the search, purchasing, trade-in, financing, or insurance processes.

Additionally, I was curious to discover their ideas for improvement. I asked them to reflect on each step along the car shopping journey—researching makes and models, visiting dealerships, securing financing, finalizing the paperwork, etc.—and share changes they would have liked to see to create a better overall purchasing experience. This line of questioning provided insight into where opportunities exist to streamline, support, or enhance certain aspects of the current car buying paradigm from the consumer’s perspective.

Lucy's Empathy Map
Lucy's Empathy Map

Empathy Maps

By closely observing and deeply listening to users, I gained insight into their perspectives and experiences through the different stages of their journey. I captured their mindsets, emotions, behaviours and beliefs in empathy maps that allowed me to identify key patterns

Personas

By studying the empathy maps, common themes emerged across user groups. These revealed core motivations and challenges faced by many potential users. Distilling these key attributes allowed me to construct representative personas that captured the essence of the target audiences. These archetypes enabled me to consider the priorities of real users as we made design decisions. Grounding choices in the lived experiences of people who would utilize the product brought authenticity to the process. 

The personas acted as meaningful reminders of whose needs I hoped to serve. This kept me focused on addressing the frustrations and goals that repeated across my research. By continually channelling the wisdom from these synthesized profiles, I could ensure the final product would feel human-centred in both form and function.

Lucy's persona and user story

Problem Statements

By deeply understanding my users’ most significant challenges, I could direct my efforts toward solutions that would have a real impact. Clarifying the precise pain points enabled me to envision remedies that reached the heart of their struggles.

With the problems clearly defined, I could ideate and innovate with users’ central needs in mind. Their frustrations became the impetus for change. Turning my attention fully to addressing their biggest issues allowed me to apply my skills meaningfully and develop resolutions that would fundamentally improve their experiences. When I knew exactly which obstacles users faced, I could leverage my abilities to eliminate barriers and open new possibilities.

Lucy's problem statement

Goal Statement

Consolidate the fragmented used car purchasing process into a centralized, educational platform that empowers buyers of all backgrounds to confidently select vehicles that will fulfill their long-term ownership needs and minimize regretful returns.

User Journey

Mapping out an optimal user flow enabled me to envision each step of the car-buying journey on our platform. Plotting the hypothetical experience as a sequence of logical actions and decisions revealed key insights about the desired interface and interactions.

Tracing hypothetical users’ happy paths through the app highlighted important design considerations around:

Defining clear calls-to-action to prompt intentional progression.
Determining key decision points that shape or personalize the experience.
Connecting screens in an intuitive way based on various selections

By visualizing how customers could move elegantly through critical car shopping tasks like getting trade-in valuations, securing financing, and finalizing purchases, I could craft an experience that feels seamless yet flexible.

The user flow provided a framework for understanding users’ mental models and how to support these with progressive disclosure of information. Mirroring the happy path narrative allowed me to prepare the necessary touchpoints and transitions that might serve users’ needs and preferences. In essence, the sequences illustrated how to guide customers to personalized solutions through intentional steps shaped by their real-time actions and decisions.

The complete car-buying experience

Competitive Analysis

Studying existing players in the pre-owned vehicle market equipped me with invaluable context to inform my own platform’s development.

This competitive analysis illuminated precisely where people struggle most across the stressful, opaque process of researching options, securing financing, evaluating conditions and value, and finalizing purchases. I discovered gaps where consumers feel confused, rushed, or distrustful due to outdated sales tactics and limited access to trustworthy guidance.

Armed with this intimate understanding of the pre-owned shopping experience’s shortcomings, I set out to design a uniquely focused user-solution. My platform introduces transparency, personalization tools, unbiased financial products, and education to ease anxieties. By enhancing upon existing models, I aim to deliver exceptional value through an ethical approach centered on customer needs above all else.

By factoring steadfast knowledge of the competitive landscape into our model, I can distinctly address buyers’ deepest frustrations at each stage while setting a progressive, principled standard for the industry

the competitive audit with competing brands

Paper to Digital Prototype

Responsive design: mobile web to desktop
paper wireframes to digital wireframes for mobile
paper wireframes to digital wireframes for desktop

Test prep

To improve user experience, I set out to answer:

How long do key tasks take?
Monitoring overall duration reveals processes to streamline.

Where does the user flow stall?
Pinpointing drop-off points highlights confusion to fix.

What supplementary tools bring value?
Adding helpful resources boosts understanding.

Why might users hesitate?
Resolving privacy, price, and support objections builds trust.

This targeted questioning uncovers actionable opportunities to optimize through clarity, simplicity, and responsiveness to user needs.

the usability test prep, complete with kpi's, scope, and interview transcript

Usability Tests

I used standardized usability surveys to benchmark ease of use. Scaled ratings across factors like:

  • Intuitive navigation
  • Quick learning
  • Interaction consistency
  • Workflow confidence

This feedback exposed interface pain points. Scoring system learnability and coherence highlighted convoluted flows and confusing elements obstructing users.

Formal usability metrics quantified shortcomings around goals like:

  • Simplifying tasks
  • Supporting progression
  • Building confidence

By evaluating perceived ease of use, I gathered actionable data on where finer tuning for intuition and clarity was needed.

Initial Iteration
usability results
Initial iteration Results

Ease of use: All participants agreed it was easy to use. 50% of them thought it was really easy to use.

Learning curve: All participants agreed that there wasn’t a steep learning curve. 60% strongly agreed with that statement.

Consistency: 80% of participants believed the website was consistent throughout their interaction. Of those participants, 50% strongly agreed. Whereas, 20% disagreed.

Confidence of use: 80% of participants stated that they were confident going through the purchase flow. 20% were neutral.

Final Iteration
usability results for final testing
Final Iteration Results

Ease of use: All participants agreed it was easy to use. 60% of them thought it was really easy to use. An increase of 10%.

Learning curve: All participants agreed that there wasn’t a steep learning curve. 80% strongly agreed with that statement. An increase of 20%.

Consistency: All participants believed the website was consistent throughout their interaction. 30% strongly agreed. 20% downgraded to “agree,” whereas 30% upgraded to “agree.”

Confidence of use: 90% of participants stated that they were confident going through the purchase flow. 10% remained neutral.

Iterations

Purchasing Flow

The abridged iterative process of the steps needed to purchase a pre-owned car.

60% of participants thought the sequence flow was out of order.

1 of 6

20% of participants didn’t see the price of the car live-updating in the nav. throughout the process.

They believed that the total price should be listed on the “Review Order” page.

2 of 6

20% of participants didn’t see the “Confirm Button” below the fold and believed there should be a button at the top.

3 of 6

The sequence was adjusted and no other participants commented on the sequence.

4 of 6

A “Purchase Total” section was added to the “Review Order” section, and there were no further comments about the car’s total price.

5 of 6

A “Confirm & Complete” button was added to the top of the “Review Order” section and no further interruptions occurred in the flow.

6 of 6

* clicking each hotspot will provide further details.

Trade-in Flow

The abridged iterative process of how a customer would get a quote for their current car.

20% of participants mentioned that they were confused because three forms indicated “1 of 3,” but with different information in each form.

1 of 4

40% of participants indicated that the form navigation was bulky and distracting.

2 of 4

The progress indicator was updated from accordion-style to numerical, improving user orientation within the flow, with no additional remarks provided.

3 of 4

The various form fields in the “Basic Info” section of the accordion were divided into manageable steps and no further comments were made about it.

4 of 4

* clicking each hotspot will provide further details.

Buttons & Input Fields Iterations

The abridged iterative process of the buttons and entry fields evolution.

20% of participants mentioned that the “Select File” button was too neutral and blended in too much.

1 of 6

The button colour was changed to the secondary colour.

2 of 6

20% of participants indicated that the selection buttons were too similar to the confirmation button. 

3 of 6

20% of participants indicated that the options listed were very limiting.

4 of 6

The colour of all the selection buttons were changed to the secondary colour eliminating further comments.

5 of 6

An “other” checkbox was added with an input field.

6 of 6

* clicking each hotspot will provide further details.

Take Aways

Entering this project, I was unaware of the opaque, high-pressure tactics marring the car-buying journey. Interviews quickly exposed shady practices that seize on customer ignorance. From opaque rust protection pricing to leveraging free floor mats to feign negotiation victories, stories of manipulation abounded.

Yet common pain points also emerged around selling old vehicles fairly, securing financing, and navigating aggressive sales staff. By understanding these shared frustrations, I gained incredible clarity around the need for a transparent online car buying experience.

When testing my vision for such a platform, the enthusiasm said it all—“Too bad this doesn’t exist already!” addressed a real unmet demand. By cutting through previous assumptions, this human-centred discovery process revealed deep challenges within the existing car-buying paradigm alongside a hungry market for ethical innovations. The candid insights not only illuminated needs but also forged purpose and conviction behind my new solution.

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