Motoring website Auto Trader has recently launched a new version of its site in beta, updating the technology behind the site and introducing a more modern design.

The Auto Trader mobile website was impressive when I reviewed it recently, so I’ve decided to have a closer look at the new desktop site. It’s a pretty big site, so I’ve confined my review to a used car search…

Homepage

It is a beta, so hopefully the homepage will be changed before the new version is made official, as the ads and colour scheme on the homepage make more difficult to read and scan than it needs to be.

The background of the page has been taken over by an ad for Holiday Inn, and all of it is clickable, meaning that you could easily end up on its website by mistake. Ads aside, the page is pretty cluttered, which can make it harder to scan.

Search box

Since the most important part of the page is likely to be the search box, I’d be inclined to make it more prominent as it does blend into the background at the moment.

The search box is pretty simple, with just six fields to fill in before users can start searching, with advanced search options available on the next page. One slight annoyance is that, with more than 100 car makes to choose from, you can’t type the first letter of the make to jump to it on the drop down menu and save time scrolling.

Also, you have to enter a complete postcode before you can begin a search, otherwise you get this search message:

Options for refining and narrowing down your car search are excellent, and by displaying the number of matching results, it helps users to avoid returning no results at all.

You can easily add more filters without starting the search all over again, though you do have to manually update the results. Filtering options are good though, and you can be pretty specific about the car you are searching for:

Results pages

The results page is clear enough, and you have further sorting options to organise the results by price or distance. Since each listing has a brief preview, with a picture, and summary of key facts, it makes it easier to scan the listings.

However, the data could be tidied up a little to avoid confusing results. Sometimes distance is displayed as mileage, while ads that are irrelevant to the search, such as the one below to hire a Ferrari are mixed in:

The compare feature is a big improvement on the previous version of the site. You can now compare up to ten cars side by side at the bottom of the screen:

Auto Trader compare feature

Users can compare running costs, performance statistics and dimensions side by side, and minimise the tool so you can continue searching.

Used car listings

The car details are reasonably well presented, and there is plenty of statistical detail on performance and economy, while links to maps and directions are provided. A useful addition would be links to reviews of both the car models that are listed, as well as the dealer selling the car.

Conclusion

The Auto Trader website was certainly due an overhaul, but I’m not sure that this particular version is as good as it could be. The used car search works well in general, with some excellent search and filtering options, but it the overall look of the site could be improved to make key navigational links stand out better.