I've written about car manufacturers' websites before and found most to be lacklustre.

They sort of do the job but are confusing and don't look particularly elegant (see the German and Japanese big three). Volkswagen, however, has a great website - I've previously picked out its homepage for its simple messaging.

I thought I'd highlight five more features on Volkswagen's website that other car manufacturers would do well to emulate. Here goes...

1. Embedding YouTube videos

Car websites often have hosted video but it's rarely embedded from YouTube. This means it often can't be shared as easily or as nicely.

I understand that in the past some brands have been concerned about 'owning' their media, but now the future is here and it's all about sharing and search and social love.

I'm of the opinion that YouTube embeds, such as the one below on VW's fantastic 'Well worth it' campaign page, constitute best practice.

vw embeds youtube vids

2. Lightbox 'quick view' product information

One of my bugbears with many car websites is how legacy technology often means lots of webpages, often with weird URLs, and lots of clicking here and there.

That's why when browsing VW models, it's great to click and see headline information, as well as a variety of links that I may need.

lightbox vw product page

3. Content about technology

Technology is a header menu option in its own right on the VW website. In such a technology obsessed sector this feels right, yet remains an oversight for many other car manufacturer websites.

The dropdown menu lists some of the technology on board and if you click through there are 12 videos showcasing the technology.

This is fantastically snackable content that appeals to those looking for gadgets, for safety, for ease of use and for efficiency. It's not just that VW is courting a broad market... Mercedes and the like could produce similar, arguably sexier content.

vw tech menu

And here's the video content.

technology vids from vw 

4. The timeline

There's a prominent link to the Volkswagen timeline in the 'about us' dropdown on the homepage.

When you click it, you're treated to a usable search and a filter, with a couple of views in which to admire the company history. The whole thing works beautifully and, whilst I understand it might not be tied directly to revenue, it's this kind of content that automobile buffs lap up.

Whether I'm already a VW owner and want to purchase again, or a prospective first time customer, knowing about which awards certain VW models have won in 2014 (as just one example of what this timeline can surface) is certainly compelling. Not many cars need to be sold, to make up for the price of such valuable content.

vw timeline 

The timeline allows users to view awards won by VW models, but also includes trivia, innovation, people and history.

awards at vw

5. Clear messaging/personas on the homepage

I've picked this out before but it's simply excellent and what all websites with several distinct user journeys or audiences should be doing.

vw homepage 

What do you think? Which other car manufacturers are doing good things online? Do leave a comment below...

Ben Davis

Published 9 October, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (4)

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Morgan Jones, Digital Manager at Myself

Agree with assessment on this one. It is a reasonably clean, uncluttered website that has to say a lot to a lot of people. And I admire Volkswagen for acknowledging how they profited from Nazi rule and forced labour for five years during WW2 (http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/timeline/index?decade=1940&q=&#list)

Air brushing this out of their history would have been dishonest in this context. I wonder how many other German/European/Asian manufacturers, who were under Axis rule, are as honest as this when it comes to telling the story of their brand.

over 3 years ago

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Itzel Maldonado

Well, I was Digital PM for a car company and I must say this is an excellent example for all car brands. The content must be targeted, and relevant to the people who is searching for information, great media, opinions and experiences. Great job for all VW people and its digital agency!!

over 3 years ago

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Chun

The only thing I don't like is it has a wordy brand story. Using timeline to tell the story is a good idea but it would be even better if it can use more illustrations or interesting animation to speak the words.

over 3 years ago

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chris marshall, Director at Onstate

Yes, #5 is really clever. All website owners need to know the breakdown of their traffic by user intent and all VW have to do is to look at their homepage analytics data to get this information. It's like navigation and a survey rolled into one single piece of UI.

over 3 years ago

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