New Django Site For Porsche Enthusiasts
Dec. 9, 2011By Paul Kenjora
Recently I’ve completed a revamp of Patrick Motorsports on the Django platform. The owner, James, has been working with Porsches for more than 15 years. He races Porsches, builds Porsches, and sells parts for Porsches. Overall its a cool shop, every time I’m over I see a dozen cars in various states of rebuilds and tune ups. We started working together over 5 years ago and the site has made some interesting evolutions since then.
2003 – We Met
It all started in November, when I called an ad for "Help needed building website for local Porsche business.", in the Arizona State University State Press. I called in, met James a few days later, I negotiated for beer money, he wanted to grow his business. We agreed and started things off fairly informally.
You should have seen his website, it still makes me chuckle. Imagine a middle aged man kneeling next to a transmission, with barely legible text poorly formatted on a single page as one giant image. That was it, no links, no other content, not even an email. Considering the web in 2003, many small brick and mortars were in the same predicament. The web was still owned by white collar silicon valley corporations and geeky college kids. James knew it was changing, PayPal was starting to catch on and Ebay was booming.
2004 – Starting Point
The first revisions were to create some real content. We took his entire PeachTree database of parts and exported it to a MySQL table. Over the span of a few weeks I layered on a C++ back end and a very simple non-CSS template. It worked for the 10 or so visitors he was getting each month.
He began promoting his website to other shops, at events, and on print material. I’m amazed by how different the small business auto industry web is from mainstream websites. Imagine a world where customers think state of the art is five years ago and whats on some of the most successful websites is not what they want. It was tough going but James and I managed to get some key elements on Patrick Motorsports.
The biggest seller to this day has been the Project Gallery. Its a section of the site where James can document the various stages of a build in photos. From looking at Goolge Ananlytics, over 70% of our traffic came in from the gallery. To improve sales, we added a parts list for every build. It worked sales started to climb.
2005 – Getting Bigger
Initially James and I had planned on linking in with PayPal but decided against it until his internal processes were fine tuned. When sales picked up to a point where customers were asking for online checkout, we settled on a order by email system as a stop gap. Any order you place on the Patrick Motorsports page is reviewed and processed by email.
It actually worked in his favor considering the nature of his business. We’re talking about a shop that builds cars worth many tens of thousands of dollars for specific customers. James had a reputation and a standard of quality to preserve. Rushing into impersonal online sales too soon would have been risky. Email and phone based orders allowed him to fine tune each order with the customer, ensure the parts fit the customers vehicle model, and make each customer understand how absolutely knowledgeable and dedicated he is to his trade.
Late in the year Brian came on board to help with the growing number of parts. The site was beginning to outgrow itself, the old C++ code was getting tough to manage. We needed someone to come in and update all parts, prices, projects, links, and descriptions. Customers would call in and mention how it was difficult to find a specific part. Brian was the young kid who knew about cars, was an excellent graphics artist, and picked up the website super fast. Over months he built up the photo and parts library from a few dozen to thousands. You can now spend days browsing through all the content.
2006 – Taking A Break
Not much happened to the site that year. I was in Tucson working for Tucson Embedded Systems. James was busy growing business and expanding his shop. We made minor changes to the site but nothing huge.
2007 – Going Django
In October, James decided to make the site more user friendly and take ore of an Amazon style approach to product recommendation. The gallery and exclusives sections were becoming hard to manage. Cross linking all the parts was taking more and more time. We decided to redesign the administrative interface.
We quickly realized C++ wasn’t going to cut it. It would take less time to develop the site from scratch in Django and provide us more flexibility down the road. By mid September we had a the new site up and running. Instantly we saw bounce rates in Google Ananlytics cut in half while page views sky rocketed. The revision was a success!
The trick was the extensive product recommendation. We wanted every single page on the site to flow into more options. The Patrick Motorsports site is so heavily cross linked you can browse through all the parts maybe 12 different ways and never get lost. Cars link to parts, parts link to projects, projects link to specials, specials link to catalogs, catalogs link to parts, etc… Basically everything links to everything and the back end alows one person to administer it all sanely.
The past year has seen a shift in focus, all the numbers are good but they could be better. James is focusing his efforts on external marketing. We are taking SEO seriously and going after more traffic aggressively. I see it as another phase in an incredible project that has come a long way since the strange one page website.
Last week we kicked off a whole new design for the menu as well as the home page. With cool cascading menus and improved home page navigation the site really pops. As far as car part sites go, this one has the best mix of navigation, information, and eye candy. The next few months will be exciting as Patrick Motorsports expands projects and part selection even more.
If you’re an interested Porsche enthusiast, James gives tours. You haven’t fully appreciated speed until you’ve driven his 1973 Porsche 911 RSR – 3.8L at full throttle.
I can build a site like this for you, call Paul 602-214-7285.
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