First off, all you Ford lovers…get over it. Everyone knows Chevys are better. 🙂 Now that that is out of the way, we can be to the point: your website is a car. To make this analogy work, we need to go through the stages of car ownership.
Purchasing a New Car
When you start looking for a car, you don’t go to a section in the grocery store, pull it off the shelf and take it home. You research features, read reviews, check values and pricing; and through all of this you still want something that matches your taste. After that, you look to see who offers the make and model that fits your wants, needs and budget. Websites are the exact same way. Depending on your wants, needs, and budget, you know where to start looking.
Leasing vs. Buying
When you lease a car, you understand that you, at no point, own it. You pay an agreed upon monthly rate in exchange to use the car for a set number of miles and months. If you stop paying for the car, it goes away. The payments you’ve made up to that point mean absolutely nothing. If you want to upgrade or exchange for a new lease, you sign new contracts and keep paying. Forever. And for some people, this works.
When you buy a car, you understand that for this set amount of money, you will at some point own the vehicle. It’s yours. You can do whatever you want to it. You can drive it to Africa if you wanted to (I’m being sarcastic here, you probably shouldn’t attempt this). When you get done paying the set amount, whether you get a loan or pay outright, it’s your car.
Your website is the same. Many companies offer a lower monthly “lease” payment, in which case, you probably don’t own your site or any of its contents. If you quit paying the monthly rate, your site goes away and you are back to square one. On the other hand, if you purchase your site, it’s yours. All its contents and photos are yours, and you have complete control on whether or not you want to drive it to Africa.
The New Car Phase
Now that you have your new car, you drive that bad boy everywhere! It’s shiny and spotless and you look good driving it. You take selfies with your new car. You look out your window at it sitting in the driveway and think to yourself: “That right there is an awesome car.” You look at other people’s cars and wonder what the heck they’re doing with those old clunkers.
When you get your shiny new website online…you show it off! You post it on Facebook and Google, you ask your friends and family to check it out. I’ve even seen email blasts to an entire customer base telling their loyal fans to click the link and visit the brand new design.
You’re excited and anxious for everyone to see it. Like your new car.
Back to Reality
Now that you’re done obsessing over your new car, it’s back to reality. You needed a car to get you from point a to point b. That’s its purpose. What KIND of car you chose will identify whether it accomplishes it’s purpose with the right balance of style, efficiency and practical usefulness.
Let’s say, for kicks and giggles, you bought a Maserati. While everyone you pass will break their neck to check you out, it’s going to cost you a small fortune in gas, insurance and valet parking to keep driving that sucker around. For most of us, it’s just not a practical choice, since it’s only real value is the flashy display.
A flashy, super expensive, over the top website likely misses the boat on practical needs. Sure, it’ll get your friends attention and impress a few people here and there (who happen to run across it), but it’ll never be its own producer of traffic and revenue. You’ll always have to take it out for a spin to get anything out of it.
On the other end of the spectrum, let’s say you went for The Ultimate Money saver in up front costs and bought a Toyota Verso. It will get you from point a to point b with efficiency, but will probably lack basic features like a realistic backseat or a cup holder. And if we’re being honest, no one expects it to last that long either. You’ll be lucky if he thing is still running by the time you get it paid off. And by the way, it’s not turning any heads.
A low budget, cheap website will likely make you just as much money as you put in it. It will barely accomplish its purpose, but you’ll never be proud enough of it to show it off. You know in your mind it will only last you until you can afford something else.
Without spending the loot on a Maserati, but way beyond a Fiesta, your new whip is a Chevy Tahoe. It gets you where you need to go with class, and while it’s not the absolute best on gas mileage, it’s not terrible either. The balance in safety, features, and insurance cost rounds it out nicely on the budget. You can get all your friends in it too. Reliability is a given, and it’s easy on the pocket to maintain.
You’ve invested enough money into this site to make it a success. It’s not an out of the box design, it has unique content and the right call to actions. It’s versatile enough to correctly display on tablets and phones. You’re willing to use it to the fullest extent, and you expect it to earn its keep. This website can multitask and is expandable, growing to fit your needs as they change. And it looks nice enough for you to show off just a bit.
Don’t Forget the Oil Change!
As with ANY car, you have to perform maintenance. You can’t drive it off the lot, never change the oil, and tow it back several months later because the engine locked up. As the car ages, the maintenance requirements change.
A website needs maintenance. A one time shot will only get you so far down the road. Depending on your platform, you may need to perform core and plugin updates, check for spam, or just freshen the content up. Regardless, you can’t ignore the signs of neglect and then complain that things don’t work right. Just like with a car, you can do the maintenance yourself, or hire someone to do it for you.
Know When It’s Time to Move On
We’ve all had to drive around a beater until we could afford something better. If you purchased your car new, you know when it’s time to trade it in and get a new one. The longer you wait, the higher your risk of a large ticket item being necessary.
Your website has a life span. It won’t last forever. Whether it is the design that gets dated, the technology gets old, or your needs outgrow it; at some point you will have to invest some money to upgrade it or replace it.
Learn From the Past
We’ve all made a terrible car choice in the past. If you bought a Verso and you ended on the upside-down end of a car loan, YOU DON’T DO IT AGAIN. You learn from the problem in that choice, and you make a better decision next time.
When you make a poor website choice, don’t repeat it. It won’t be better next time around. We’re in 2015, every contractor needs a good web presence to be successful. Customers are savvy enough to realize you invested in your site, and if you didn’t.