AutoTrader is probably the biggest resource available for when it comes to car sales around the UK. Their website has never been too bad, and people were able to use it nicely, without much hassle, and no doubt great bargains were had, and huge profits made by utilising the AutoTrader website. That was until, they brought in their new “Beta” design.

If you’ve checked recently, AutoTrader have updated their website with a new look, currently tagged “Beta”. Now I know a lot of people are complaining that the new site doesn’t work properly – including problems with how it looks, and other problems such as the JavaScript only working sometimes.

The thing with JavaScript is – it’s always good to use it unobtrusively – that’s to say make a website that works without JavaScript, but then improve the experience for people who have Javascript. Don’t make it so that you block off a large part of your userbase just because they have JavaScript disabled. In AutoTraders case, obtrusive JavaScript is only the smaller issue….

Mozilla Firefox is the second most popular web browser in the world, and AdBlock Plus is one of the most popular addons for Firefox. Now here’s a couple of screenshots comparing how the AutoTrader site looks for users with AdBlock, and for users without it:

Adblock Enabled

Adblock Enabled

Adblock Disabled

Adblock Disabled

As you can see, people with advertisements disabled received a very limited view compared to people without it. Whether or not this is deliberate we can’t really say, but it’s definitely something that should not be overlooked. When I personally visited the web page (my default browsing is Firefox with AdBlock) I saw masses of whitespace and thought “Wow! What an eyesore!”. The whole site looked hideous, with just so much white and bright blue text stuck inbetween.

No doubt AutoTrader are being plastered with complaint emails, but this is a mistake that should never have happened. In the meantime, we can all learn a few lessons from this:

  • If you have a new site that you want to test, DONT launch it to the general public. Have a select group of testers who can opt-in to test the Beta version, provide feedback, and only when you know that everything’s working do you make it available to the mass-public.
  • Use unobtrusive JavaScript
  • Don’t rely on adverts to make your site look right