Suzuki

Reinventing the Suzuki car website

Suzuki is a Japanese multinational corporation operating in over 180 countries. It was founded in 1909 by Michio Suzuki and incorporated in 1920. Since then it has given the world a range of machines from looms to motorbikes and cars…

Back in my university days, my thesis was entitled Evaluation of the Internet as a Business Tool [1998]. As part of this work, I reviewed a number of websites, including Suzuki’s car website.

Built by K-Web, the Suzuki car website introduced new thinking for using flags for uses from around the world to self identify their locations and it also brought the full catalogue of products together.

I actually cited K-Web in my case study analysis a number of times.

Imagine being the information architect, conceiving and driving the entire development of the Suzuki car website a decade or so later…

It still boggles my mind.

But it gets better, as I met someone special just after launching the new Suzuki car website

Before we start, a little context

I am trained in information architecture by Jakob Nielsen, founding father of website usability, and Bruce Tognazzini, founder of Apple’s Human Interface Department.

What is an information architect?

As an architect designs all the technical drawings for a house, an information architect is responsible for all the planning of sitemaps and page layouts for websites or apps or any information-based interfaces.

An architect can choose to make the windows in your new house longer, and the doors wider, to give a sense of space and light… An information architect, keen to make a website as frictionless and easy to use as holding a pen, might simplify the user experience, menus, and layouts to the extent that the visitor does not need to think about how to use the website, they just use it.

This was my goal for the Suzuki car website and Suzuki bought into that goal completely.

We would make it effortless to use for all of Suzuki’s car customers, from all around the world. Just like their cars.

But before we dig into this case study, let’s set the scene with some context of how the Suzuki car website had evolved…

The first website back in 1989

Sir Tim Berners-Lee had only launched the web a few years earlier, and the first website was a little rudimentary, shall we say….

Sir Tim Berners Lee

The inventor of the World Wide Web?

That’s Sir Tim Berners-Lee…

You can see the websites on the computer monitor were revolutionary at the time, but my modern-day standards, simple.

Image courtesy of CERN

Suzuki's first 'Internet' site

There’s a little known distinction between the Internet and the Web.

The Internet is actually your broadband ‘internet’ connection.

The Web is the layer of HTML technology and coding that enables website links to work and pages to connect across servers connected by the Internet.

So, as sweet as it may seem, Suzuki’s first ‘Internet’ site, was indeed its first website, that was launched in 1996. 

1990s

Suzuki’s car website was built by the team at K-Web based in Brighton, England, and was operational through 1990s.

2000s

The website that I was asked to reinvent was the next version of the Suzuki car website.

This version was built in Flash.  Many websites of that era were built with Flash.

Whilst Flash made websites, kind of flashy, they were not renowned for their usability.

Also, as computer screen sizes were changing every year back then, and thus the optimal size of websites was forever changing, this flash website quickly became far too small for the screens at the time.

What was once a revolutionary design, it rapidly became obsolete.  

Problem

As the website had been built in Flash, it had become difficult to use. The website was also very busy and it had quite a few calls to action, and multiple navigation options, all competing for the users attention.

The competition had equally complicated websites.

The website was seriously holding Suzuki back online and it was falling behind in sales in the UK.

A new content strategy...

I started work on all the strategy work and preliminary research, understanding the brand, its customers, stakeholders, and conducted a thorough competitor analysis of over twenty car brand websites.

Only after I’d reviewed every single page of the Suzuki car website, and all of the pages of all its competitors, and truly considered what was the best experience for Suzuki’s customers, could I come back with a plan of action for the brand.

My recommendation, which was accompanied with numerous user journeys across an entire set of wireframes, started with the presentation of a new content strategy for the website. This was detailed in the form of a sitemap that encapsulated all of the content that would be included within the website.  

Below is the sitemap that I presented back to Suzuki.

You’ll see a simplified navigation to three core sections and fastrack system was elevated to an upper navigation, where people could complete known everyday tasks. 

From this content strategy and sitemap, I then mapped out how this content would be displayed on each page of the website through a full set of wireframes and user journeys. 

I designed and built out all of the core wireframes for each page of the website, for the developers to then build.

Suzuki Car Website: Homepage Wireframe

These wireframes became the blueprints for the entire project and were transformed by the creative and development teams, into the website below.

Results

The new Suzuki car website proved to be a significant step forward for Suzuki.

In UK, Suzuki has grown from it being its fourth largest market in Europe to its largest market.

In 2013, Suzuki enjoyed a 33% growth in car registrations, hitting 33,000 units, with a 0.3% growth in market share.

Turnover, which was in decline prior to the launch of the new website, rose from £253 million to more than £366 million.

An effortess to use website, compelling brand experience, and superb creative can have quite a dramatic impact on growth…

The end of the story?

Whilst I was working on the Suzuki car website, I was living in Hove, near Brighton on the south coast of England.

One night, just after launch of the new Suzuki car website, I was having a drink in my local bar. I was talking to a friend about the Suzuki project.

A lady on the table to my left overheard my conversation and tapped me on the shoulder. She introduced herself as the founder of K-Web. We had a delightful conversation…

Find out what Chris Reid thought about my approach to the extensive competitor analysis, website planning, and information architecture work I conducted.

Get in touch
If you would like to explore working together, and you need a little help developing your brand, please book a virtual cuppa and we can talk.

Where next?

Cookies

Cookies improve user experience and understand analytics. Continue to use this website with cookies or learn more.