How Building a Website is like Buying a Car


June 8, 2017

For many years, I've been using an analogy to help people understand how building a website works. Having a website built for you is like buying a vehicle. And for your reading pleasure, allow me to dig into it a bit.

Choose the Right Supplier

Maybe your car has broken down, or maybe it won't do what you need it to anymore. Maybe you just want a new one. Whatever the case, the first thing you'll need to do is choose a dealership. Some have new cars, some used. Some have a big selection and some are just starting out. Maybe they are close by.

Because there are so many variables to consider when choosing a dealership, or an agency, it’s helpful to focus in on the one that matches the type of car or website that you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask for a proposal from an agency, the same as you would take a brochure from a dealership.

Understand the Cost

Another element of the analogy between vehicles and websites is cost: they are similar. Yes, you can get a website for free but in terms of a car, it's either a clunker or it's worth more and someone is doing you a favour.

Economy models are still cars, just like luxury models but there are clear differences. With websites, an “economy website” just won't look as nice or work as well as the luxury one. Everyone has a story of a website costing almost nothing or one costing an enormous amount. These are akin to people getting a steal of a deal on a car or getting ripped off by buying things they don't need.

Understand the Needs

Whenever we start a new project, we need to understand the job that needs to be done by the website. The needs of the website change substantially when the job changes. An e-commerce website is a little like a pickup truck. It should look good enough to make everyone feel comfortable but its purpose is everyday business. It needs to haul and deliver things in a dependable way. If you don't have a lot of money or you're uncertain, maybe you need something inexpensive like a scooter. If you really need to impress people, you might need a Mercedes Benz. We have website options that match these types.

Choose your Customizations

When you're buying a car, there are many things you can customize, but you’re still getting a car. It has a motor, a frame, wheels and a place for you to sit. You get to customize things like what kind of vehicle it is. There are price ranges for each of these types of vehicles and there are a few extras. You might upgrade your stereo or choose leather instead of fabric seats.

The point here is that you make choices about some options but the rest are assumed to be included. A website is going to have pages, just like a car has an engine. It's going to have a CMS (Content Management System) just as a car has a place for you to sit. Yes, you get to pick the colour and the interior options but you don't get to pick crazy things like putting the driver in the back seat or making the mirrors spin to attract attention. Basically, the web agency is going to put a website up for you that is going to stick to some established standards and ways of doing things.

Take Ownership

Once you drive off the dealership lot, you're responsible for your vehicle. It helps you get where you need to go and you get to make all the choices while driving it. Similarly, a website is in the hands of our clients as soon as the project is complete. We do our best to make sure every client has what they need to be successful but really it's out of our hands right after we launch it.

Maintain and Sustain

Like a car, a website needs maintenance and has ongoing expenses. A website needs hosting, like your car has registration and insurance. A website needs fresh content like how you have to clean up your car regularly. The technology that powers your website will need updates, fixes and repairs over time, just like a car.

Along those lines, while a vehicle will last a long time with care and attention, most wear out. Websites also wear out. The message changes, the business changes or maybe people just move on. We sometimes have to tell our clients that an old website can't be salvaged and we have to start fresh. Maybe the technology is too old or the visual elements are too outdated, and sometimes it takes less effort to just move forward with a new project.

Start Driving

This is a bit of a stretch but bear with me. To get where you're going in a car, you need fuel. Having the best vehicle in the world but nothing in the tank means you're not getting anything done. At a digital agency, the fuel we're talking about is money spent on marketing. A website needs visitors and it often takes money and effort to get people to come.

As an aside, like most dealerships, we offer financing on some projects. Ask us if you might qualify.

Here at Lift we want you to understand more about your project before you get started with us. I hope this analogy works. If you found this interesting or would like to contribute, get in touch with me.