Carflow: digital dealership that says open 24/7/365
here's an overview
Carflow is a SaaS company that allows hundreds of dealeships across Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg to manage, coordinate and promote their inventory.
They offer state of the art solutions enhancing the digital showroom and solid sales & marketing automation tools for automotive retail and OEMs.
Carflow Manager is the administration component of the product. It’s actually where the magic happens
Carflow had to grow. Market opportunities were irrelevant because of how the product met client’s expectations. Beyond the cosmetic details, usability, responsiveness and accessibility issues were obvious.
beneficiaries & target audience
I was hired to redesign the interface used by dealers to handle their stock, trades and incoming opportunities. We’re talking about an enterprise level piece of software serving tens of thousands of dealers, their direct managers and the owners of the dealerships.
Manage your leads, offers and orders, control your new and second-hand inventory, publish your cars to media partners and on your own website, review status of deals, live stock and stats.
roles & responsibilities
For 4 months I lived and worked in Anvers, Belgium with the Carflow team, coordinating the redesign efforts with the marketing, development and local design team.
Contracted to redesign the administrative interface that is used by sales agents in dealerships when managing stocks, building offers, promoting cars and scheduling daily operations, I was part of a team of 5, containing the COO, the PO, the CTO and an external stakeholder. Here’s what I did:
- Research – to inform the design strategy of the product
- User Flows – to clarify the journey of the users before and during the interaction with the service
- Information Architecture – to present relevant information to the user at the right time
- Sketching – to align stakeholders and clarify the scope of development
- Wireframing – to further aling stakeholder’s views and cover key details
- User Interface design – to offer a branded visual expression to the service we designed
- Prototyping – to further validate flow, available functionality and necessary information
scope & constraints
- UI redesign to improve usability and consistency
- integrate a new functionality: agenda
- introduce a management oriented dashboard functionality
- optimize the search experience
- prioritize relevant data being displayed
- allow the UI to support custom branding elements (white label)
One of the challenges was balancing bias-filtered feedback received from customers with UI & UX design directions of 4 stakeholders. Accounting for the technical limitations of the legacy platform when designing the search and filtering functionality. All the while considering the pressure of delivering specs for an enterprise level software, aiming to get into production in 2 months. It didn’t happen.
During the first week I wanted to connect with the product through the stakeholders: representatives from the marketing, sales, development and support teams.
Since we I was dealing with a big piece of software I had to get some quick wins and be as agile as possible while at it. We agreed that we would handle in the first month the main 3 priorities we agreed upon, use wireframes as main deliverables and then come up with a style guide that would inform the development as we continue with the rest of the application, with weekly sprints.
I used UXPin to hold all the necessary assets: research results, mindmaps, research results, wireframes and final design assets. It allowed for transparent collaboration and a decent manner to manage the handover to the development team.
Later on I turned to Frontify to hold the specifications for the style guide. Back then it was a magic, brand and atomic design oriented tool.
I still long for a thriller starring a designer as the main character. The truth is that design can be damn boring for spectators. While we may get a kick out of finding the little details that make somebody’s daily task less of a hassle, reaching it might not always Archimedes like moments of truth.
Meeting every Thursday allowed us to make sure we’re on the same
page, while email and Skype managed to cover day to day communication.
Each week was a cycle that followed these steps:
- gather data about the next section/page that needs care and prioritize main items to adjust
- manual sketch initial ideas to clear the mental slate
- do research to look for how others deal with similar problems
an interactive proposal that covers the adjustments making sure you
develop a simple and coherent visual and interaction language
- present it in the weekly meeting and receive feedback
- discuss the finer points of the issues you encountered or foresee when it comes to technical implementation and use
- suggest alternatives and plan for adjustments
A weekly loop that made sure we deliver consistently and feed the pre-planned development efforts in a timely manner.
Lack of access to the end users always hinders the efforts to plan or validate reliable solutions. So I tried to involve all the hands available on deck into exploring possibilities, sharing feedback and validating. Statistically, more perspectives allow you to get closer to the user’s pool.
Come October the app was well under development and our collaboration would come to a much welcomed end. The new version was launched (to my knowledge) in early 2016 and continues to evolve way beyond what we all envisioned. You can peek at the current status and features if you visit: https://carflow.pro/en/features/.