Today we’re taking some time with Caleb Eckman, Web Developer and Designer here at Tommy Car Wash Systems, and exploring car wash websites and the digital storefronts that play such a significant role in modern car wash customer service and advertising.
Q: Caleb, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve been at Tommy Car Wash Systems for over a year now. Before that I spent four years at Michigan State University working towards my Computer Science degree. While there, I specialized in database systems, web technologies, and web app development.
My role at Tommy Car Wash Systems is the design and development of our corporate websites. This includes everything from designing new pages or content to managing our existing online infrastructure. There are always new things being built and it’s my job to make sure that those things get showcased online.
Q: We all know the internet is here to stay, and having your hours and menu available online is important. But is that really all the value a well-designed website holds for a local carwash?
The significance of a well-designed online presence can’t be overstated in today’s digital world. A website has enormous influence over a company’s brand identity, public relations and customer experience. In fact, modern consumers now expect that a business’s online presence is well-polished and intuitive.
But beyond the basic website, there are many services that can be offered digitally that improve the experience of your customers. These could include things like club programs, additional payment options, location finding or mobile apps. Another huge digital asset is, if done correctly, more streamlined and varied avenues of communication with your customer base. Give customers options on how they communicate with you, along with making it simple and easy to do so.
Q: What are some guiding design principles or strategies you would suggest for a wash operators looking to design their own websites or have them built?
I would say the biggest design principle to remember is simplicity and ease-of-use. You could spend hundreds of hours working on the best-looking, most eye-catching website, but if the content isn’t good or is hard to find, your customers will leave frustrated. It doesn’t matter what your website looks like if your customers can’t navigate your site or easily find the information they need.
So design your website around your content, don’t fit the content into your design. Put the most important information in prominent, recognizable locations (location, hours, pricing etc). Minimize the number of clicks or taps it takes to access this information so that visitors don’t have to heavily commit. Customers will stay and browse, but only if the initial experience is good.
Q: Once a website is finished and available online, what should a wash operator focus on next?
Getting a website established is only the first step in providing a positive digital experience. While it’s great to have new visitors to your site, it’s optimal to give them reasons to come back. This can take many forms, but it mostly comes down to a consistent form of new content. This can take the form of social media posts, a blog, or a news section which highlights upcoming events. Another big feature that will be constantly in use is your contact page. Ensure that all communication with your customers is polite, consistent, and effective. A positive brand voice can vastly improve your reputation as a business.
Q: What are some of the worst or most common website mistakes you’ve seen in the wild?
One of the biggest issues I see in a majority of websites is a lack of mobile responsiveness. With more than half of web interactions happening on mobile devices, it’s extremely important to design a site that will look and work well across all platforms. It’s definitely not a good web experience if your visitors have to pinch and zoom to read text or interact with buttons. This can be especially bad when the main site navigation is affected, as this makes the website practically unusable.
Another thing I often see is when small resolution images are used as hero or background images. Always make sure that the images you use are large enough for the medium they’re being viewed on. For desktop, that’s usually around 2000 pixels in width for a full screen image, but with some retina displays you may need even more resolution. Both of these issues are easily remedied and will greatly improve a customer’s experience on your site.
Tommy Car Wash Systems