As the price of gas goes up and environmental concerns become more prevelant, more people with resources to spend on leisure items are turning towards cycling. There are a myriad of options for someone looking at buying a mid to high end bicycle.
But once a shopper has settled
on what they want in a bike, it's challenging to figure out which manufacturers are selling models that match a particular shopper's needs. Currently, shoppers must either take the gamble and hope their local bike shop has something that fits them perfectly in stock, or spend hours looking at manufacturers' Web sites and decoding a wide array of proprietary categories and terminology fabricated by marketers.
You log on to a web site and begin selecting what you want in a bicycle. Options range from very general (geometry; weight; price) to very specific (pedals; cassette; headset; crankset; wheels). Small tutorials along the way educate you about why a particular option is important and why you might want one or the other (double crankset vs. triple; flat bars vs. drops; road bike vs. hybrid; v-brakes vs. caliper breaks vs. disk breaks; what the hell is a braze-on).
Common options are preselected to help new users get a good all-around bike without getting into nitty gritty details about components. After you've created your ideal bike, the database outputs a list of bike manufacturers/models that match your needs (ranked in order of a percentage match).
Once you've received the output of models you might like, you receive links to the manufacturer's Web site, reviews, and a list of local dealers.
This would be an extensive questionnaire/web form tied to a database of current bicycle models and components. In addition to basic form-programming, it would require a programmer to create a series of complex conditionals (for instance, choosing a Mountain Bike lets users select a different set of componenents than choosing a Road Bike).
To create the more complex, location-based features (i.e. giving users a list of local bike dealers who might have a specific bike in stock), the dev. would also need to create an account-setup process so that users could specify their geographic location and save their choices across sessions. However, this level of complexity would not be necessary in the first release. (Once you know what bike you want, it's relatively easy to start calling shops in the phone book and see who has one in stock).
WHO DOES THE WORK?
If a Web developer built a demo of Build-a-Bike, it might be possible to convince bike manufacturers to do their own data-entry each time they release a new bicycle (via a central interface managed by the Build-a-Bike dev). This would greatly reduce the time needed to populate and maintain the database.
Why would manufacturers want to spend time doing their own data entry?
1. It would be a good advertising vehicle for their products.
2. Based on data gathered from user-input, bike manufacturers could gain access to important data about what kinds of things their customer base is looking for, which could help them plan future bike models.