Site review:

    May 21, 2004

CARFAX ( specializes in selling vehicle history reports on used cars. After spending some time browsing around the site, I’ve identified three major areas in which the site could be improved.

1. Lack of professionalism

Justin, my first impression on clicking to your site was that you aren’t running a legitimate, respectable business. The appearance of the site looks too much like the popups that regularly intrude on my browsing experience.

Although you obviously didn’t just throw the design of this site together, it doesn’t have an authentic aura to it. Part of the problem is that the main page looks like it is might be just a collection of ads. This is especially true of the three boxes down the left side of the page, but it also applies even to the grey boxes in the main content area. Try to avoid having ad look-alikes.

Also, move away from the grey color scheme. I would incorporate a little more color and work on making the design look more polished.

2. Homepage visual cues are confusing

When I first tried to fill out the “Free Record Check” form on the main page, I was puzzled by the arrows pointing to the four boxes underneath. At first glance, it looks like a visitor is supposed to enter a VIN number and then choose from one of the links in the boxes. But this isn’t the case.

The arrows (along with their corresponding boxes) are misleading, and they muddle your message. I would remove the arrows and the four boxes underneath. DO state the information that visitors will get in the report, but avoid making it look like they have to go through a second step as they are filling out the form.

Next, try to avoid duplications. For example, you have two different “Record Check” forms on the homepage, and it appears that they do the same thing. This adds clutter, and it is confusing. The text entry field at the top of the page looks like it is either an ad or a site-search box.

Also, you have duplicate “Search” buttons for the “Record Check” form in the center content area. This is unnecessary.

Finally, the “Carfax Vehicle History Report” link goes to the same place as the “Order Reports Now” box on the left. This last example has a little more justification than the others, since you are legitimately trying to save visitors some time. However, the purpose is not immediately obvious, and the duplicate link is probably not necessary.

3. Concept is unclear

Since I haven’t purchased a vehicle history report before, I couldn’t immediately tell how the process works. Your homepage (and the order page as well) was more confusing than helpful in this respect. Again, partly because of the arrows on the home page, I couldn’t tell if purchasing one report would tell me all the information about a particular vehicle, of if I would have to purchase several different reports.

Also, based on the way the main page is laid out, it looks like the no-cost record check will reveal information about the title, odometer, etc. In reality, a customer gets this information only if he or she buys a complete report.

Finally, once I got to the order page, I couldn’t tell exactly how the purchase options work. You give two options: 1) Purchase a single report, or 2) Purchase unlimited reports. But you don’t explain how the latter option works until the next page. I would try to explain that a customer (presumably) has an account which remains active for 30 days, and during that time, he or she can run an as many vehicle history reports as desired.

Overall, try to do more explaining. It’s good to keep things short and simple, but you need to tie the various pieces together and show how it all works. Make it clear to visitors exactly what you want them to do, and make it clear exactly what they are going to get.

NOTE: All comments on the above-referenced site were accurate at the time of the original writing. Kianta is not responsible for the accuracy of comments made on any portion of the site which may have been redesigned.

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