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CarStory

Platform Design and Ecosystem • 2016-2018

In 2016, Vast made a business decision to transform its CarStory automotive analytics platform–at the time a big data platform that powered other marketplaces, into a direct B2C and B2B company. Over the next two years, we developed an ecosystem of products targeted at used car managers, financial institutions and used car buyers, enabling them to promote and find the best deal possible on pre-owned vehicles.

Role: Design  Design Manager / Principle Product Designer

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Overview

 

Vast.com, the parent company of CarStory, had historically been a data provider to larger marketplaces and third-party companies that needed live vehicle analytics. The CarStory automotive platform has over 8 million listings and continuously scans the market utilizing the best in class big data analytics, machine learning, and computer visual learning.

 

In 2016 the company pivoted to move into the product space–providing services via applications and websites directly to used car dealers, third-party partners, and consumers. From 2016 to 2018 our task was to utilize the existing technology stack which had been developed over the past 10 years into a compelling product offering that would compete in an already competitive automotive market. 

 

There were many challenges facing our team – building a product design team to support the effort, developing a process to define and prove out product concepts and creating a design system of reusable parts to speed development and time to market were just a few. 

Customer Segments

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CarStory Product Matrix Breakdown

 

Our product portfolio separated into three user categories including dealer tools for managing product inventory, consumer tools that enable a fast and easy search experience and third party marketplaces for financial institutions seeking an off-the-shelf solution for their existing line of loan services.

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CarStory Appraise

Faster, more accurate vehicle appraisals using big data

Product Overview

 

In the used car industry, profit is made at the time of acquisition of a vehicle, not at the sell. Having great data to guide decisions on which vehicles to purchase and for how much is crucial to a lot's financial performance. Our product research indicated the small independent dealerships often lacked the tools and support to make data-informed purchases. 

 

With CarStory Appraise, a dealer can quickly evaluate a vehicle at the auction or time of trade to determine how much the vehicle will most likely sell for, how long it will sit on the lot and the maximum bid price they should acquire at in order to meet their business goals.

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Screenshots from the iOS application that show our analysis of the vehicle, how much the vehicle will sell and time that it will sell in. It allows them to enter in their profit goals and determine the maximum bid price.

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Screenshots from the iOS application that show our analysis of the vehicle, how much the vehicle will sell and time that it will sell in. It allows them to enter in their profit goals and determine the maximum bid price.

Prototypes/Demos

Prototypes of product ideation were heavily used to gather feedback during the process

 
Below are sample prototypes built in Framer during the product's creation.

 

Click on any prototype to try out

Loading and Processing Demo
Appraise Demo
Smart Filters Demo
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CarStory Track

Monitor your lot inventory and your competitors

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Product Overview

 

In the used car business, conditions are constantly changing. With new vehicles entering the market and older ones exiting, the competitive landscape is ever shifting with market demands. CarStory Track was created to help used car managers better track their inventory against fluctuations in the local market and better adjust their pricing strategies as their inventory ages.

 

CarStory Track is continuously scanning the market so that dealers know where their inventory stands and helps them determine which units need to be adjusted or moved on to wholesale. CarStory Track is like having a virtual sales manager that is driven by artificial intelligence in your pocket working 24/7 to better manage vehicle inventory.

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With CarStory Track, dealers can get a quick snapshot of their inventory, see the distribution of fast and slow sellers and dive into the details of a problematic unit.

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CarStory Track sends out intelligent alerts when market shifts occur and enables the dealer to model out different outcomes of price adjustments with its patent pending Prediction Explorer.

Responsive Web Version​

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A web enabled view allows the used car manager a more robust view the data behind the CarStory Track analytics.

Lot Inventory View

 

The Lot Inventory view was a product developed after witnessing many dealers trying to create their own tools to get a glimpse of their inventory's health. With Lot View, the detail can easily visually scan their full inventory and determine how long vehicles have been sitting on the lot, how much time remains before they sell, thus providing a clear picture on which units need price adjustments and which units need to be moved to wholesale.

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With the Lot Inventory View, dealers can get a quick scan of how much time remains on current inventory and which vehicles need to be removed from the lot.

CarStory Market Reports

Unbiased insights to help car shoppers make the right purchase

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Product Overview

 

Purchasing a used vehicle is a time-consuming process for most customers. Our research indicated that most users mostly want to ensure that they are getting a good deal and are willing to do the research to negotiate with the used car salesman.

CarStory Market Reports provides a fair and independent source of information for the consumer and the dealer to start a negotiation. Market Reports analyze vehicles on their price, condition, features and more in comparison to similar vehicles on the local market and provide transparent information for the dealer and consumer.

 

Market Reports are hosted and provided for free by leading used car dealers to their potential customers to better bridge the trust gap.

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CarStory Market Reports provide consumers with precise stories about the analytics of what matters most to consumers – vehicle price, features and condition.

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CarStory Market Reports was designed to have an independent editorial voice, written and presented in a news-like layout. Market Reports are embedded inside of dealer websites and thus needed to have a distinctive brand appearance.

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CarStory Market Reports are full responsive ready and allow more information density to be displayed in desktop resolutions. 

CarStory Vision

Its like Shazam for cars – the easiest way to search

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Product Overview

 

CarStory Vision was created for one purpose – to redefine how shoppers search for cars. Our anecdotal research led us to the conclusion that consumers, especially younger audiences don't know much about vehicles, but can easily spot what they like when they see it.

 

Our initial design concept led us to repurpose an existing CarStory technology–image recognition on used car images and to repurpose that as a starting point for a new method of a vehicle search.

 

With CarStory Vision, users can simply point at vehicles they like and instantly see vehicle information and similar vehicles for sale nearby. As the user scans cars, a personal profile is built so that better suggestions can be made in their personal vehicle feed.

 

CarStory Vision was launched at the AutoVate conference in November of 2018, and designed, built and launched in less than three months.

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Product Inspiration

 

Ask the typical car buyer what type of car they like and you may get some unexpected results. Some are able to list a specific make and model, while some will describe a general class of vehicle like a truck or small SUV. Many users, however, have difficulties in describing their ideal vehicle.

 

Given the right context, most users can spot and point at vehicles they like – for instance in a parking lot or along a street.  Our team used this conceptual model and created an app that lets users simply point at vehicles they like. We leveraged our computer vision technology to identify the vehicle, then created a personalized set of top results based on the cars that were matched.

 

 

Original Pitch Deck

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Prototypes - Click to Launch

Initial Prototype Demo
Final Proto/Spec
CarStory.com

Intelligent search to find your dream vehicle

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Product Overview

 

The CarStory.com responsive website is a used car marketplace that leverages all of the capabilities of the CarStory technology platform to deliver a best in class search solution for used vehicles. With CarStory.com users can easily explore vehicle types if they are just browsing, or search for a specific make model. CarStory provides independent market, price and condition analysis of each vehicle so that the user is better informed as they prepare to negotiate with the dealer.

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CarStory.com leverages a simplified user interface that works well on desktop and mobile devices. It provides users with very intuitive controls to refine their search around the four primary user inputs care about most–price, condition, features, and mileage.

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Screenshots from the responsive mobile version of CarStory.com

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CarStory Mobile Application

 

CarStory mobile targets customers who want a native application on their iOS or Android device and who seek the benefits of native alerts and text chatting capabilities offered on mobile phones.

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Third Party Marketplace

 

For financial institutions seeking to drive loan originations on their site, CarStory provides a complete user experience for mobile and web that can be customized for their brand. Partners can connect potential shoppers with their network of approved used car dealers, ensuring a delightful customer experience.

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Screenshots from the automotive platform that integrate the customer's brand and their financial products in the online checkout process.

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Screenshots of the mobile application that enable in app alerting and loan configuration.

Prototypes/Demos


Prototypes were used to with potential customers to communicate how the platform could be customized to meet their brand standards. 

BOA Demo
JP Morgan Demo
CarStory Design System

Reusable UI components for a consistent experience and faster development cycle

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Screenshots of the mobile application that enable in app alerting and loan configuration.

Prototypes/Demos

 

Prototypes were used in this process to communicate design intent of various UI level controls.

Button Demo
Input Demo
Design Process

Our design methodology followed a generalized  Understand + Ideate + Prototype + Build + Measure process utilized by many Agile product development teams. Due to the complexity of the used car industry, it was crucial for the team to visit with and talk to many of our customers to fully understand their challenges and to translate those needs into useful products prior to building. We utilize many prototyping cycles to generate ideas and to gather feedback prior to locking down requirements for final development.

 

The following two principles embraced by the team during the design and development stages of the various products.  The primary lesson for the team learned was that ambiguity is throughout the process of product development, but trusting the process to guide and inform the decision making process.

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IMAGE CREDITS

 

(Credit - Squiggly line - Revision Line - https://revisionlab.wordpress.com/that-squiggle-of-the-design-process/)

(Credit - Better Done poster  - Erik Spiekermann p98a.com - https://www.p98a.com/shop/posters/better-done-than-perfct-1)

 

User Research

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Sample images taken from studying the day and life of a used car manager. Tasks include looking through the inventory daily, tracking the preparation of getting incoming vehicles "frontline ready" and examining the various tools used to track their vehicles in comparison to the local market.

User Journey / Story Mapping

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A sample journey story map that identifies critical points in the process as a used vehicle gets acquired, prepared for the market, then sold. This map helps the team identify pain points in the process that may be a product opportunity. 

Brainstorming and Sketching

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Quick brainstorming sketches that allow the team to communicate and collaborate on possible solutions.

Wireframes and Flow Diagrams

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Sample high level schematics of user flow diagrams and wireframe that are quickly rendered show the design intent for both the product and development teams to gather feedback.

Refinement and Iteration

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Many rounds of stakeholder and customer feedback and review. With each new round, we learn more and constantly improve.

Prototyping

Prototyping is perhaps the most crucial step in the process. It allows us to get many ideas out in a testable proof of concept that can be handled by our stakeholders and customers. Its second purpose (and equally important) is an end deliverable to the engineering team to communicate design intent. 

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Sample prototype that was used in stakeholder meetings as well as delivery to the engineering team

Recognition

CarStory.com has been recognized by the following organization for excellence in user experience and website design and development.

W3 Awards Gold - CarStory.com

Eddie & Ozzie Finalist - CarStory.com

Web Awards - Excellence in Automotive Design - CarStory.com

CSS Design Awards - CarStory.com

Patents

The following patents have been filed for CarStory products:

 

Inventory Timeline View - the user interface that allows dealers 

CarStory Vision - method and design of visually scanning vehicles

Prediction Explorer - a method for assessing the impact of pricing adjustments

Multi-Dimensional Slider - the user interface that allows dealers  

My Role

As Design Director at CarStory, it was my role to build a product experience team and a process to that utilizes best practices of lean and design thinking into our development process. As part of a small startup product and design team, my role is to be part designer, part prototyper, product consultant and mentor to the user experience team.

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