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May 23, 2010

Step 4: Analysis (Buying a Car)

Back: Step 3 - Detailed research (buying a car)

My table in the previous step was a good way of listing the pros and cons of each car, and even counting the number of things I liked and disliked, but it didn't show me which criteria were the most important.  I could see that the Swift was a winner in many categories, but were they the most important ones?

To get a clearer picture I extracted my criteria from my notes and organized them into a hierarchy in bCisive Online in five steps:
  1. List all the criteria that come to mind (brainstorming)
  2. Identify all the major criteria (what's most important)
  3. Group the major criteria into categories
  4. Organize the minor criteria
All these cars had satisfied my original criteria, but in the course of my research I had identified many new criteria, which I hoped would serve to distinguish them.

To help me with this somewhat daunting task I turned to bCisive Online, which is ideally suited to sifting, organizing, structuring and refining a mass of ideas.  Its drag & drop and automatic layout allowed me to brainstorm and categorize, and play with different arrangements until clarity emerged.  Its flexibility allowed me to use both top-down and bottom-up styles of structuring, and to switch freely between the two.  Here's what I came up with:

My detailed criteria as a map (click for a larger image)

The new criteria, broken down into the categories that emerged, were:
  1. Handling: On the road, parking, acceleration
  2. Comfort: Height of the interior ceiling, feel of the gearshift, seat comfort
  3. Cost: purchase price, fuel economy, cost of parts and services
  4. Storage: Trunk capacity, size of spare tyre
  5. Safety: Crash safety rating, brakes
Now that my criteria and categories were in order I had a simple, elegant scheme for evaluating each car on its own merits, without losing sight of the big picture.

Next: Step 5 - Analysis and ranking (buying a car)

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