DX Award :: Audi TT

From the first moment you hit the Audi TT site, you know you’ve found something special within the online auto industry. Frankly, we haven’t seen an auto site this good since we reviewed Ferrari.it.


This page is republished for historical and archival reasons, highlighting the history of online design and the work of some of the many talented individuals who were instrumental in the early days of online media.

We are honored to select Audi TT as this week’s recipient of the IPPA’s Award for Design Excellence.

From the first moment you hit the Audi TT site, you know you’ve found something special within the online auto industry. Frankly, we haven’t seen an auto site this good since we reviewed Ferrari.it.

The TT is Audi’s latest offering in the increasingly competitive high-end sportscar market. This is Audi’s bid to say, “Move over Boxter, we’re coming up from behind.” At least on the web, they’ve achieved this with real flair.

Designwise, the site’s best feature is its stunning, if very simple layout and navigation plan. Everything is perfectly squared and crisp. Hard edges play against soft colors and contrast cleanly against black. This only serves to highlight the aerodynamic appearance of the TT itself. Where another designer would have rounded the edges of the site in a bid to design in the visual strategy of the car itself, this design team instead chose not to compete with the car.

Returning to the navigation plan, the top links lead to the marketing-based interactive features. Among these is the E-Card, perhaps the site’s best misplaced marketing strategy: this begs the question as to who would wish to send a picture of the Audi-TT to a friend. Nonetheless, the E-Card gallery provides the viewer with the best collection of images of the upcoming new car found anywhere on the site.

The second best misplaced marketing strategy is the screensaver (even if it is brilliantly designed). Again, do you want the Audi-TT as your desktop background or screen saver? Okay, maybe — but only if you really like sportscars.

The general concept of offering free screensavers is a good one that has been effectively put to use at dozens of sites so far. Right now, three of the systems in house at IPPA have Titanic backgrounds, for instance — romantics all, I guess. However, this doesn’t make it a one strategy fits all sort of thing. In short, a screensaver of your company’s new electric toenail clipper probably won’t increase your bottom line.

Colorwise, the TT site is fabulous. The silver car plays perfectly off the gray dust backgrounds and shadows. The imagery has been perfectly scanned and color corrected — clearly by a master. Notably, contrasting against the grays, if you look into the Design section, one of the image swaps at the bottom features a red palette. It pulls you in — and the message is there too:

We’ve deliberately left something out of the Audi TT Coupe: complication. The purity of its sleek, low, dynamic lines expresses both power and agility.

And did we already say they know how to write good copy? Just read through the site, it is so well-written that it is actually a bit too polished. When I finished reading the last paragraph I felt like I was sitting in a padded TV room on a big Lazy Boy — you know, the one with the beer fridge tucked under the arm. Again, just a bit too smooth — and that is something of a problem. I would buy a TT for speed, excitement, and power. Somehow, the atmospherics of the copy were misplaced.

The other issue we had with the copy was that the type was perhaps just a bit too small for easy reading. Maybe you need good eyes to drive a TT. Or maybe money enough to afford a big monitor (wait a minute, I have both good eyes and a good monitor). One designer once stated that he thought really small type was “way cool.” Thankfully, most clients are likely to reject this sort of thing, saying something like, “I can’t read it. Bob, can you read that….”

Technically, the site is almost perfectly executed. The designers went to every length to ensure the minimum difficulty for the user. Attention to detail, that is the key to technology for the web. For instance, although we “trashed” the screensaver a moment ago, it is interesting to note that the download includes an automatic sniffer to give you the version need for your PC or Mac or whatever. There is none of that “Click here to download for the Mac; click there if you own a PC…” stuff you see all over the web.

Restrained use of mouseover image swaps across the site enhances the experience, rather than subtracting from it. We’ve seen way too many glowing words (another one of those things everyone does because you can do it quickly in Photoshop) — the TT site, in this regard, is in a class by itself. Just go through it and you’ll understand what we mean when we say restrained.

On another front, the home page features a well-coded image swap — every time you surf back home, you’ll see another image of the car from a slightly different angle. Since Audi is trying to play up the new TT, there is no better way to show you the goods than to splash the picture on the home page. By rotating it with every surf, it just invites the viewer to check it out repeatedly.

Virtually every page of the site has been programmed to a fine technical standard. Nothing is done without purpose and everything makes sense (except for the broad strategic decisions about the E-Cards and screensavers…). Ultimately, the site is a perfect mixture of design and technology, neither detracting from the other and both serving to enhance the message: Buy this Car.

So to wrap up the review: overall, the Audi TT site is short, sweet, and very powerful. The imagery is simply outstanding. The layout is dynamite. Let’s just hope that the car is as well designed as the website — definitely worth a test drive.

Scoring (10 is Maximum):

Graphics Design…….. 9.4

Programming………… 8.9

Content and Copy…… 8.9