Old Cars and Websites: Lessons From My Dad

As a kid growing up, my dad was always fixing things. On any given Saturday, we could walk down to our garage and find him under the hood of one of his old cars. Next to him was always a pile of nuts, bolts, and miscellaneous car parts.

He had many fixer-uppers that he worked on over the years, and it was always the same thing. We knew when we saw him driving up with another beater in tow, that he would be busy tinkering away in his spare time.

It would sometimes take a few months, and sometimes a few years. But it always ended the same way. “Everyone, come on down. It’s time to fire up Ol’ Bessy.” We would all go down to the garage and wait for that engine to start. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. When it didn’t, he’d be back to the drawing board to get it figured out.

Once he got the car running, it got a shiny new paint job. He drove that car around town like a prized possession.

Through all of his many car projects, it always amazed me that he could start with an old junker, take it apart, and figure out how to put it all back together and make it run.

Old cars and websites

What does fixing old cars have to do with building a website?

I’m glad you asked. Taking those nuts and bolts and putting them back together in just the right order (with a little TLC and a lot of patience) is kind of like putting the pieces of a website together. It’s finding just the right words to say, the perfect pictures to go with the words, and putting them together like a well-run engine.

Choosing the Right Model: Picking Your Platform

Just like choosing the right car to restore, selecting a platform for your website sets the foundation for how things turn out in the end. For most DIYers, WordPress stands out as a robust and flexible option—it’s like the classic car of web platforms: reliable, customizable, and with a strong community behind it. However, your choice might differ depending on what you need—just like some prefer working on Fords and others on Chevys.

Laying the Foundation: Domain and Hosting

Before you start tinkering under the hood, you need a garage to work in. In the world of websites, that means choosing a domain name and finding the right hosting. This step is crucial as it affects everything from your site’s performance to its visibility on the web. Think of it as selecting a safe, accessible place to park your car where it can be best appreciated and most functional.

Building the Engine: Structuring Your Site

With your domain and hosting ready, it’s time to start building. Structuring your site is like laying out the engine components before assembly. You need a clear plan for how your pages will connect and what their purpose is. This is where a good site map comes in, acting as a blueprint that guides the entire construction process.

Crafting the Content: The Heart of Your Website

Now, let’s talk about the engine of your website—its content. Quality content drives traffic, engages visitors, and converts them into fans or customers. Just as a car can’t run without a well-built engine, your website won’t function without strong content. Here’s how to build it:

Writing Compelling Copy

Your website’s text should be engaging and clear, much like the gauges on a car’s dashboard. They need to provide the right information at the right time. Whether it’s blog posts, about pages, or product descriptions, your writing should communicate value and engage visitors, helping them navigate your site easily.

Selecting Images and Media

The visuals on your website are like the car’s bodywork—they make the first impression. High-quality images, engaging videos, and interactive elements can transform a standard website into something exceptional. They should complement your text, not overshadow it, providing a visual context that enhances your message.

Fine-Tuning the Design

With your content in place, it’s time to focus on design. This is about more than just looks; it’s about functionality and user experience, just like a car’s design is not only about looking good but also about aerodynamics and comfort.

User Interface and Experience

Think of your website’s interface like the interior of a car. It should be intuitive and comfortable for the user. Navigation should be straightforward, much like the layout of a car’s controls. Everything should be within easy reach, allowing visitors to find what they need without frustration.

Responsive Design

In today’s world, your website needs to work on devices of all sizes, just like a car needs to perform well in different driving conditions. Responsive design ensures your website looks good and functions well, whether on a desktop or a smartphone, much like a car’s suspension adapts to various road surfaces.

The Launch: Going Live and Getting Feedback

Launching your website is like the first time you take a restored car out for a drive. It’s exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. Once live, listen to user feedback and be ready to make adjustments. Just like tuning a car after a few rides, tweak your website based on real-world usage.

Stay in the Driver’s Seat: Managing Your Website

Once your site is up and running, the journey isn’t over. Like regular car maintenance, your website needs ongoing care. This includes updating content, optimizing SEO, and ensuring security measures are in place. Keep your site in top condition to ensure it continues to perform well, attracting visitors and fulfilling its purpose.

Your DIY Website, Ready to Show Off

Although fixing old cars is not my area of expertise, building websites is. If I were going to fix an old car, I’d give my dear ol’ dad a call and ask him to help me. Without him, I’d be completely lost and would likely never be able to “fire up Ol’ Bessy.”

But if there’s one thing I know about my dad, he wouldn’t just jump in and fix it for me – he’d stand by my side and teach me how to fix that old car. He’d explain to me how engines work, how all the parts work together to get that engine running.

And if my dad were going to build a website, you better believe he’d be giving me a call. And just like him, I wouldn’t just build that website for him. I’d teach him all about the parts of a website – from picking just the right domain, to writing the perfect words that tell his story, to launching that site out into the world wide web.

I’d stand by his side, showing him step-by-step what it takes to get his website up and running for all the world to see.

In the end, it’s just like that car my dad got to drive around town. Except you get to tell the world your story through your website.

And if you need help building your website, I’ll do the same for you. If you stick with me, you’ll get all of the fundamentals and tactics I’ve learned over the past 20+ years of running a successful web design business PLUS strategies for making this work for you no matter how frustrated and overwhelmed you are.

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