What to consider when developing a website for the automotive repair shop
Keeping pace with the ever-changing world is tough. As a small business owner today, competing with national chains that have deep pockets is a challenge. If what you offer is both technically challenging as well as capital intensive, like running an automotive repair shop, then you are undoubtedly asking yourself, how to attract new customers.
While a generation or two ago, one could rely on family and one’s a good word to keep new customers knocking at one’s door. Today, it is having a presence on the web, anonymous references and likes, and SEO ranking that replenishes the store of customers.
The first major hurdle for a repair shop is having a website.
While one can design individually, more likely if you spend all day worrying about repairs you are not going to want to spend your nights not just balancing the books and inventory, but also tweaking a website. Fortunately, there are some alternatives.
Aside from commissioning either a local web designer (of which there are countless to choose from), there are also pre-made solutions specifically focused on automotive solutions. Websites can be programmed from the ground up, but more often they are built using templates and on platforms where one can add elements as desired. A quick google search will turn up platforms like Wix, WordPress and Joomla.
However, rather than you doing the work yourself, you are better off focusing on what you know best: running an automotive repair shop.
And just as you would unlikely build a car from scratch, so too, you should engage an expert on web design who knows a particular platform to configure it to work for you.
So how do you go about finding a web designer?
Let’s work backward by applying how you, yourself, would rate a mechanic. The first telltale of a capable engineer of any stripe is a combination of humility, attitude, and confidence. This also applies to web designers. Those who have it all figured tend to have just one tool in their toolbox. Without much experience, everything looks doable and they rarely see the pitfalls until they fall into them.
A good web specialist will start by learning your business:
- Who are your typical clients
- What is your preferred work – are you more about regular service or bodywork?
- Who are your competitors, and how do they appear on the internet?
- What is your current web presence?
- How do you see yourself? Do you reflect conservative values, or are you cutting edge?
- How would you want to operate? Walk-in? Offer online reservations?
A designer would then look for design patterns that work within the framework(s) which are most familiar. As mentioned earlier, the platforms that already exist have 100s of artistic designs with different looks and feel. A good designer will find something that appeals to your sense of aesthetic. If you restore vehicles like say Campbell Auto Restoration you may be looking for something more in keeping with classic car types rather than something modern.
Next, you should be looking for somebody who can plan. Again, just as you would in your own shop, a competent designer will set target dates, set your expectations, and identify what you need to deliver so that the site can be crafted.
The plan should make sense as a narrative. Applying common sense, one would first take care of repairing the dents and sanding down the scratches, say if you were doing bodywork like J&D Autobody before moving on to respraying the chassis.
Access to the web designer is also important, but physical presence is less so today. The delivery of the site and the subsequent support that follows, such as looking to drive likes and comments should be your main concern. Thus, you should also be looking at what a designer will offer in terms of follow-through.
The design proposed should emphasize:
- How you prevail over the competition, perhaps this might be a statement of longevity, like serving the metropolitan area for 50 years, or a family business since 1968.
- What you expect visitors to do, referred to as a call to action. This might be “click here to book an appointment” or “quote 1234 to be eligible for a 10% discount”.
As you undoubtedly know, artwork and pictures also catch the attention of potential customers landing on your website. Your images should:
- Show active work, where something is getting accomplished
- Reflect known branding, to establish your attention to quality and thereby suggest that you too will offer an added value through association
A logo, whether it be something iconic, the name of your service and/or your relation to your locale, is critical. If the area is not distinguishable, then something else iconic is more important. Likewise, the colors you choose can reinforce your image. The color(s) chosen need to work against various backgrounds and situations, allowing you possibly to interweave such with the images you place on your site.
- Connection to the local community
- Simplicity and directness
- Clear instructions of what the site visitor should click on
- Key product offering and/or what is on promotion
To establish whether the professional you are talking to is capable, look at past performance. Those with experience will have other clients that they can give as references, while those with less experience, should be willing to work for lower rates as you have a higher risk as they lack a track record.
As part of the overall presence, a well-seasoned designer should, in the end, not just come up with designs that impress you but tease out of you what makes your business stand out, and establish a plan for future content that will keep your site being picked over competitors.
Keep all of these things in mind when it comes to investing in a website.