We started with Wards 10 Best Engines 22 years ago, then added Wards 10 Best Interiors, and now we’re launching a third competition: Wards 10 Best User Experiences.
If the term “user experience” is unfamiliar, it’s not in the ever-changing world of automotive development, where the phrase has become a catch-all for engineers and designers who are literally redefining how we will interact with vehicles of the future.
So we’ve developed a scoresheet for all the WardsAuto editors to use during their routine daily commutes. We award points after determining how easily it connects with a smartphone, how user-friendly and intuitive the controls are, how intelligent the advanced driver assistance technology is and how appealing the materials are as a component of the user experience.
If the vehicle has an onboard navigation system, how easy is it to use? Are the displays easily reconfigured, and does voice activation work with simple commands, or does it become a source of frustration?
We want to recognize vehicles with outstanding infotainment features, including first-rate sound systems, multiple USB ports and options to entertain the kids on roadtrips. Is the system compatible with streaming music apps, real-time traffic and weather reports, as well as Apple Car Play and Android Auto? Is it easy to get my emails and text messages on the display screen or even read to me?
We’re looking for user experiences that surprise and delight the consumer and also represent a great overall value. We are finding some of the best, most affordable user-experience technology is in low-cost entry-level vehicles geared to young people who have grown up in the digital age and expect a lot.
Our list of 28 nominees represents a wide swath of the latest technologies appearing on new models, from the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, BMW 7-Series, Chrysler Pacifica and Ford Escape Titanium to the GMC Acadia, Honda Ridgeline, Jaguar F-Pace, Mazda CX-9 and Volvo S90.
We’re trying something different with this all-new competition. Each editor gets time alone with a car, but then we’re also evaluating as a group. We cram as many editors as we can inside to test the controls, voice activation, Bluetooth – all of it. We share comments, likes and dislikes, and we all learn from each other.
We will wrap up our evaluations at the end of August and announce our picks in mid-September, then pass out trophies to the winning automakers on Oct. 4 at the WardsAuto User Experience Conference in Novi, MI.
It’s worth noting that 10 Best UX does not replace Wards 10 Best Interiors, but instead augments it. We determined that the user experience, while very much a part of our overall interiors evaluations, could carry a competition all by itself.
And if a particular user experience can sell a car, then it’s got a good shot at recognition in our new competition.