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Car Manufacturers Go with Adobe Flex RIA

Or how amateur Flex programmers can hurt your business

OK, car manufactures go Flex. Will they lose or gain customers after that?

Car manufacturers want to have fancy consumer sites. It’s a RIA world, and having interactive Web sites should bring more people to car dealerships.   Bikers to want to see nice looking Web sites.  Check out Harley-Davidson’s Web site: http://www.harley-davidson.com . While most of Harley’s site is done in DHTML, go to Motorcycles menu, pick a model, get some pop-corn and enjoy the show.  That piece was done in Flash. Isn’t it nice?
Let’s take another site for Mini cars: http://www.miniusa.com , which was also build in Flash and is delivered by Flash Player. It’s also not bad.

You can spot a weird-looking car on the roads. It's called Scion. Their Web site looks a lot better than the car itself, isn't it?

A recent addition to the RIA collection is UK’s Volkswagen. This one was done in Flex and was also delivered by Flash Player: http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/ . Excellent artwork – just take a look at how you can customize the wheels or the exterior paint color. Isn’t it something?  But something else did not look right… The site was a bit slow, and I was on a fast 30 mbps connection.  This got me thinking – the majority of the population will be connecting to this Volkswagen’s site via a lot slower connection lines. What their experience would be?

I decided to make an experiment.  I have my cell phone with me that I can also use as a modem via the USB port of my laptop. Luckily, I was in the area of slow connection - www.speedtest.net reported the download speed of only 180kbps.  Now we are talking! Welcome to the real world.

I went to this Volkswagen’s Web site and started to wait.  During the first minute nothing happened –a white screen with a wait cursor. To make the long story short, I had to wait two minutes and forty five seconds(!) till I was able to use the site.  Don’t you this it’s a little too much?

I’d guess that about 25% of people who visit Volkswagen are impulse buyers. They did not open this site because they were specifically interested in buying Volkswagen. After one minute wait, they’ll abandon this site and go to their competitors. Is Volkswagen ready to lose these customers just because they were using cool Flex technology? I don’t think so. 

Each RIA project has at least two groups of people involved – designers/artists, and people who know how to program.I know this first hand, because I currently work on a Flex project for yet another large car manufacturer. These applications have a lot of art. Can’t change it, they (creative people) know how to sell. Fine, but it’s good to have people who know how to efficiently program rich Internet applications. In case of Volkswagen, my hat off to creative people and my boo to their application programmers.

I’m afraid that poorly programmed RIA will hurt Flex. 

Hey, Volkswagen, do some stress testing and optimize your web site! 

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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Most Recent Comments
gerrymclarnon 04/03/08 06:10:30 AM EDT

I'll have to take your word for the slow connection, my experience of the site is that it is slick and fast. BTW how many people buy a car on impulse via a website?

sc 02/25/08 12:56:00 PM EST

I'm sure the testers can't think of all combinations and permutations, but they could do better. A simple performance test is one. The other is the requirement for Flash. I've been browsing quite a number of car sites lately as I'm in the market, and I've been browsing with my new toy, my ipod touch. Surprise! Flash isn't supported in the touch, so I move on to the next car manufacturer (granted I blame Apple for not supporting Flash). Luckily, at www.thesmart.ca I'm able to build the car I want on my touch and show it to my spouse. smart is a little smarter than vw it seems.

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