One of the most frustrating user interfaces on the planet is that of Kelley Blue Book. It just seems to be designed around the idea of making you click as many times as possible to get to the information you need, instead of around the notion of quick access. Is that because KBB wants to maximize ad impressions?
Well, it really doesn’t matter. There is only a certain amount of clicks I will endure until I start typing URLs manually into a browser, and KBB got me there. In frustration.
How does the navigation work? Well, it’s essentially tree navigation. You choose first whether you want trade-in or retail values. Then you select the model year, then the manufacturer, and finally the model (and later on, options). That’s great if you want to look up the values for a particular car, as for instance if you intend to sell yours.
Now, imagine you are looking to buy a particular type of car – say an AWD sedan. You settled on either an Audi A4 or A6, or a Subaru (any of many models). Your budget is constrained (yeah, well) but you are less interested in the car’s age. I would think that’s the more “normal” case.
So, now you are armed with a list of cars (from Craigslist, cars.com, etc.) and you need to look up their value. Say you found two Forresters, one from 2004, one from 2005. You found an A4 from 2008 and an A6 from 2003. You got an Outback from 2001. They are all nominally in your price range.
So, off you go to KBB. Logically, you’d want to focus on the two manufacturers or six models you are considering, but in KBB, you have to first hand in the year. After you chose the year, you can drill down to the car you are considering. When you are looking up the next Forrester, no help: you have to go all the way to the top (the year) and drill down.
Of course, if you look at the URL, you notice that it specifies year, then manufacturer, then model. If you just change the year in the URL, then you find what you want. Huh? You don’t have to go all the way to the top?
Now, why are they navigating this way? It makes no sense from a user’s perspective: when I say I want to look up the value of a 2006 Subaru Outback, the next logical thing to look up is a 2005 Subaru Outback, not a 2006 Lamborghini Countach. But the deal is that the navigation is organized around availability: the year constrains the possible manufacturers (not much), and then the models available.
That means that the programmer found out that each model is available only in certain years, and hence built the navigation around that fact.
The rest of the world thinks that’s stupid.
Hence, the need for a very simple Greasemonkey script that adds the missing navigation. You get to the page you requested (e.g. for the 2006 Subaru Outback) , and links to the year, manufacturer, and model (and trim, where available) are augmented by drop down boxes that allow you to choose alternatives. You can click on the year drop down and select a different year for the model listed. Or you could click on the model and see an alternative – all other things equal.
Let me know if you are interested in the script. It’s not packaged for public consumption, yet, but if you want it, you can gave it!