As a WordPress agency, we have built thousands of websites, but only once in awhile, there’s a request to do something out of the ordinary. Guidelines on design and user experience are very strict these days, there is a ton of data on user’s behavior and everything is calculated with 99.999% precision. But what if you scrap all of that, start with an open mind, and let your inner weirdo take the lead on creating a website? That’s exactly what Ling Valentine did with the site of her company. Luckily, or unfortunately, we didn’t build this site, but boy what a thrill it would be to hand a design like that to our developers!
The internet is a weird place. It collects all the knowledge accessible to humankind yet 90% of it is filled with pictures of cats and bizarre s**t. It takes an incredible amount of dedication and effort to stand out among all the craziness out there. One field you wouldn’t expect to find anything weird though is a car leasing industry. But as always, the magical world of the internet will surprise you.
If you haven’t seen Ling’s Cars website before, you are in for a treat — prepare to be amazed and disgusted, annoyed and entertained as you take a look at one of the most unique websites out there:
From the very first second, you are being attacked by blinding colors, seizure inducing animations and an absolutely ridiculous amount of gifs. Oh, you didn’t turn off your sound? How unfortunate.
You probably think that this is the most tasteless over the top design ever or just a goof. Well, you would be right. But also wrong. Bear with me, Ling’s Cars is actually a very successful car leasing business that shifted approximately £85m-worth of cars last year. And that monstrosity of a website attracts around 250K visitors a month. Why so?
Let’s take a closer look:
1. It Has Bags of Personality
Do you know how many car leasing companies there are in the UK? Neither do I, but… probably a lot. Through the ridiculousness of the website Ling’s Cars was able to develop something unique in the industry and made themselves stand out from all the boring competitors.
“My professionalism is in my service to the customers, but my shop (my website) is as unique in my industry as I can make it.” Ling Valentine for selfmademinds.com
It all started with the woman who founded the company — Ling Valentine. Ling grew up in China, after failing to get a degree at Jinan University she went to Finland, of all places, where she eventually met her husband and moved to the United Kingdom. There she found Ling’s Cars.
In 2006 she turned up in the Dragon’s Den show, sort of a british equivalent of that little-known TV show with Donald Trump. Her enthusiastic pitch included giving away free noodles, famously saying “Chinese eat dragons for breakfast” and bragging about her perfect “Chinglish” which warmed the hearts of the audience. What viewers saw was someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, was very energetic, highly motivated and slightly mental (in the best possible way). And the website is a great rendition of her character, though exaggerated to extreme levels.
On the website you see a lot of Ling herself. She’s riding a motorcycle, preparing to launch a missile and just being crazy for your entertainment. She’s obviously a face of the brand, a personification of the entire madness.
2. The Marmite Effect
If you’re not familiar with the Marmite effect, here’s a quick prologue for you. Marmite is a yeast extract that’s as popular in the UK as mustard is in normal countries. It has a very distinctive taste that is super salty and you can only like it because of how unique the flavor is. There’s nothing quite like it. Sounds familiar, eh?
Well, the Marmite marketing team used that uniqueness to their advantage in the 90’s and started a very successful “Love it or Hate it” campaign that divided British folks more than Brexit ever did. So the “Marmite effect” is basically something that will get extremely polarizing reactions. You could also call it the “Kanye West effect” if you like.
You can see Ling’s Cars website as ugly, tasteless, not user-friendly or whatever. One thing it is definitely not, is boring. Ling will entertain you, she will make you smile (or cringe) and you definitely will remember visiting her site. And that’s the whole point. Love it or hate it, but Ling‘s Cars will get a reaction from you.
They say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. And that certainly is the case with Ling’s Cars. Besides being on BBC’s Dragon’s Den it was also featured in the Guardian, Telegraph, Entrepreneur, and the Next Web and the likes. Supporters praised the originality, critics mocked the design (while completely missing the point), but the most important thing is, they gave it way more attention than the company would have got if it was “normal”.
It’s either love or hate, but certainly not indifference.
3. An Art of Consumerism
Ling’s Cars breaks all the rules of modern design. All the guidelines about UX/UI go out of the window here. At the same time it kind of looks familiar. It has the feeling of the 90’s internet, where you had web pages trying to throw all the information they had at you while also trying to be “clever” with unnecessary animations. It also has an uncanny look of your stereotypical Chinese web design. Lots of texts, images, links, ads on every single page and bright colors everywhere. Business, brightness and general eccentricity are not only specific to web design in China though but to overall marketing trends in the Far East.
Ling’s Cars website embraces that concept and ridicule it at the same time by pushing it to the absolute extreme. The colors are even brighter, the animations are even more eye-popping and everything is just 10X times more annoying.
It’s a satire for modern design as a whole. Like something Trey Parker and Matt Stone would have come up with, it is a rebellion against boring unimaginative websites.
Being the leading car leasing business in the UK, it would have been easy for Ling’s Cars to switch to more traditional marketing ways. The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may apply here. But it’s not about that. It’s about expressing and staying true to yourself, about being entertaining and treating your audience as real people and not mindless consumers. For Ling to completely change the site will be the same as to change herself and that’s simply not going to happen.
Worth mentioning, no matter how ridiculous Ling’s gimmick is, when it gets down to her business she’s all business. You will be hard pressed to find any negative review of Ling’s Cars services. Everyone praises her great customer support and how smooth and clear the whole process is. You will come there for a laugh, but will leave as a happy customer.