The retrospective project:

Well, it’s taken a while. Digging around in old PowerMac G4 machines. Trying to read old ZIP disks. Remember those? I even had to rifle through an old machine I gave my parents 3 years ago. Anyway, a couple of months later than planned and the first project I worked on in a full-time commercial design job is here and my retrospective project is launched. was a venture by Direct Line. They had revolutionised the car insurance market in 1985 with cheap prices achieved through only allowing their customers to interact via phone. No brokers. No middlemen.

Fast forward to the days. They felt that if they could undercut the dealerships by giving customers the opportunity to buy cars online they could also entice those people to buy their insurance as part of a one-stop-shop package. It might be useful to mention at this point that in the late 90s there was a big consumer rant in the UK about cars being 10-20% more expensive here than in mainland Europe. was setting out to fix this.

We, Quidnunc (now defunct), were awarded the work in December 1999 and the site launched in July 2000. I think we lightened their pocket to the tune of GBP 6million but the site was a tremendous success. It, coupled with the above the line campaign, was one of the most recognised URLs for the rest of 2000 and into 2001.

The concept was centred around the ability for the user to enter the site and, very much like a supermarket, pick a car off the shelf, pay for it and have it delivered. Thousands were spent on photography and all the retouching of cars in jars. This was all pretty cool back then – some high production value stuff and proper creative concept. On top of this there was some unique functionality. Online part-exchange was a great idea. The user could appraise their own car and submit it for a real-time valuation. As you can expect, this was abused and didn’t last long on the site. The screen shot is below though.

It’s good to see that still lives. The business model has changed little apart from the fact that they only offer leasing of cars rather than outright sale.

It might be worth mentioning that there were huge pieces of functionality designed and built for the site including auctions, chat, news and a host of other stuff which never saw the light of day. A little bit of shiney new toys going on and not enough focus on the proper business. Lots of sites were beset by these problems back then though.

Without further ado, some screens.

Home page

Car specification details

Car part exchange

‘Glovebox’ landing page

‘Magazine’ home page

The site even won some accolades and awards.

And here, not having seen the light of day for 8+ years, is one of the original concepts using plastic toys and, seemingly, graphics for all the content!

Similar things happening at this time were and

I wish I could have found the pitch screens but alas, they are lost forever. Unless, anyone reading this has a copy?

This entry was posted in design, work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The retrospective project:

  1. eddiekimeera says:

    I loved the story over the domain name – think you should have mentioned that.

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