Website Design Case Study
The restoration process begins
Car Talk’s website was in need of a major facelift. The cartoon-style branding was due for an updated, fresh look. Years of revisions had left aspects of the site in need of much greater organization and clarity. And, as Tom and Ray stepped back from heavy involvement in the site, Car Talk wanted room to bring in new voices that carried the brand forward with the same authenticity and sense of humor.
- Expand audience content from the Car Talk community
- Make it easy to listen to the show and download audio
- Integrate advertising better
- Create updatable "featured" content areas
- Improve search engine optimization
- Update the brand
We proceeded down a dual path targeting two specific audiences. 1) The existing listeners and future fans of the show and web site and 2) A whole new broader audience of auto enthusiasts who may find the site via search and other channels.
Car Talk’s primary site revenue model relies on underwriting sold via NPR, and from referrals to longtime partner Cars.com. Right from the start, we worked with their key promotional partner, cars.com, on how we could drive more traffic to their site.
Any brand with clearly identifiable personality faces the reality of transitions, and Car Talk was no different. We needed to shift the content focus to a broader range of automotive personalities and more deeply engage the community. This set us on the fundamental concept to create more of a content/news site vs. a show recap.
Not too slick — we're still Car Talk.
The old site was intentionally busy and cluttered. We worked with their illustrator, Bill Morrison, to create a series of "cleaner" and simpler illustrations that still maintained his signature style. Usability was enhanced through the consistent and intentional use of colors and design elements including icons, headers, and link colors. Car Talk listeners are, demographically-speaking, in line with the NPR new audience—they’re savvy and well-educated. Calls to engage around underwriting messages and off-site linking to partners needed to be gimmick-free, honest and forthright—which was also in keeping with the appeal and approach of Car Talk and their hosts. We therefore placed the Cars.com logo in the sidebar and any links that went to cars.com were also colored purple to match. This clearly identified external content while labeling it as helpful and informational Cars.com content.
Specifications & Requirements
- Improve the professionalism of the site
- Better organization of content
- Separate and highlight the cars.com brand
- Set a content hierarchy
- Use color intentionally
One of the site's goals was to make cartalk.com more current and dynamic. To do that, databases needed to import content from a variety of then-uncoordinated sources. This was not easy. The front-end design called on dynamic content delivery based on the user's preferences as well as the types of related content available. Social media integration was a very important tool that allowed for community growth.
- Content management system (CMS)
- Bring new life to old content
- Featured content
- Dynamic ad links
Content management system (CMS)
Car Talk was built on the Drupal CMS with the ability to dynamically add taxonomies to data.
Bring new life to old content
All of the existing content needed to be re-imported, tagged, and sorted into pre-defined taxonomies.
Featured content changed often for Car Talk depending on what was being talked about that week on the air, their most recent blog posts from Tom and Ray, and a variety of other writers, and the latest automotive news from their partners, cars.com.
Dynamic ad links
All dynamic content can now be tagged with car makes and models by using Drupal's taxonomy.
- Increased traffic
- Content is easier to find
- Increase in user sign-ups through coordinated Single Sign On (SSO)
- Higher engagement on social channels
"The relaunched Car Talk web site has accomplished just what we set out to do."
"It's easier to find content, fresh content goes immediately to the homepage, and community-generated discussions and commenting surface throughout the site. Traffic has doubled, engagement is up, and users are having a much better experience. Thanks, guys!", Doug Mayer, Web Producer, Car Talk from NPR.