The title of this post is misleading since website maintenance is what we do here at FatLab. However, I think it is an important question and one that we work to answer daily.
So based on what I have seen, what we hear from clients, and what we believe are the important aspects of our industry, I thought I would try and answer this question.
Website Maintenance Can be Overwhelming
When it comes to website maintenance, many business owners and communications professionals can feel overwhelmed. Understanding exactly what services their particular website needs and then matching that to a website maintenance package offered by a website maintenance company is tough.
These maintenance plans can be confusing and understanding exactly what website support services you need today versus what you might need in the future is also tough. Figuring all this out can be a time-consuming task, though very important.
Website owners know their craft, they understand the importance of their website, and they understand the public relations messages they want to get across… but they don’t know “website maintenance”.
Why would they? They are experts in their field and not in website development, design, or maintenance.
So What Would I Look for in a Website Maintenance Agency?
A company offering website maintenance services should have a strong understanding of both website development and design.
Website development, on the other hand, refers to the code that powers a website. Website design includes the visual elements of a website, such as a layout, color scheme, and typography.
A good agency will have a team of developers and designers who can work together to maintain a website that looks great and functions well.
In addition, the agency should be familiar with best practices for website development, such as using WordPress or integrating with third-party services.
Did I Say “Experience”?
This is probably the most important aspect for me. I can’t tell you how many bad development jobs we have cleaned up over the years.
Not all developers are created equal and there is nothing wrong with having junior developers work on a project, heck it’s how we learn to be senior developers, right?
However, it’s important to ask what the experience levels are for the people who will be working on your site.
A single senior website developer may be all you need but if working with a more junior developer(s), make sure they have more senior people they can work with when challenges come up.
Problem Solving Skills
Duh, right? Well, this one isn’t as obvious as it might seem. Problem-solving in web development is a unique skill.
You don’t hear this that often but I am telling you that after spending over 10 years in the website support and maintenance business, great problem-solving skills are different than great development skills.
I have worked with some developers who are amazing at what they do but not great problem solvers. In fact, I would argue for myself that I am better at problem-solving than I am at straight development.
The ability to analyze a problem, consider the client, platform, urgency, and long-term/short-term ramifications of a quick-fix versus a planned fix, is a unique skill.
Experience with Your Type of Website
Different types of websites require different skillsets and knowledge in order to properly maintain them. For example, a simple blog or brochure site is going to be different than an e-commerce site which is going to be different than a membership site.
You wouldn’t want someone who has never worked on an e-commerce site trying to figure out how to fix your shopping cart. Likewise, you wouldn’t want someone who has only ever worked on small business sites trying to troubleshoot an enterprise-level system.
It’s important to make sure that the website maintenance agency you choose has experience working with sites similar to yours.
The agency should be able to consistently deliver high-quality service so you can rely on them for the ongoing care of your website.
We’ll get into customer/client service later, what I am talking about right now is the quality of work. This very much blends right into my points about the experience.
When looking for a website maintenance agency, it is important to find one that understands best practices. This will ensure that your website is well-maintained and has a long lifespan.
Not following best-practice or fixing issues with “bandaids” will result in what I often refer to as “spaghetti code”. Over time this will accumulate and the site will become harder and harder to maintain.
Ask for references and for a list of sites maintained by any agency you are considering.
Finally, excellent client service is essential for any good website maintenance agency. You should feel confident that they will be able to answer any questions you have and resolve any problems you encounter. This of course plays heavily into the experience, discussed above.
You are likely going to be working with these people regularly and you want to make sure they are easy to work with, understand your needs, and can communicate well.
Avoid the Nerd Factor
My career started within public relations and marketing firms and I “grew up” in my career with a great appreciation for those that were able to communicate effectively.
However just like in the agencies, in the real world, there are often those that can execute with great skill and those that can talk about it with great skill… those are not always the same person.
Unless you are into coding, server technologies, or debating the best method to sanitize SQL queries or how to salt login credentials, you want to be sure that the agency has people who speak your “language”.
We have all had that experience of trying to get something done and the person you are working with just doesn’t seem to understand what you are asking for or why it’s important.
A Project Manager is a Great Asset
A project manager is a great asset to have on any team. They help keep tasks on track and communicate effectively between teams – i.e. avoid the “nerd factor”.
This is especially important when working with a website maintenance agency, as they will often be coordinating between multiple teams (design, development, marketing, etc.).
Project managers can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that tasks are completed in a timely manner. They can also be a great resource for questions or issues that come up throughout the project.
A Support Ticket System
A support ticket system is important for keeping instructions and communications organized. When a website owner contacts a website maintenance agency, they will often do so via email. This can quickly become overwhelming, especially if there are multiple people involved in the project.
A support ticket system ensures that everyone is on the same page and that no information is lost in the shuffle. Additionally, it allows the agency to keep track of who is working on what and when tasks are completed. This level of organization is essential for providing quality service to clients.
Accurate Quotes and Estimates
The agency should be able to provide an accurate price quote before starting any work as there is nothing worse than what I call “surprise billing”. When surprise billing happens and the cost is disputed, the service provider will feel undervalued and the client will feel cheated. It won’t be long before that relationship falls apart at that point.
An accurate estimate is important in website maintenance for several reasons:
- It allows the client to budget appropriately.
- It sets expectations for both the client and the agency.
- It helps to avoid scope creep.
- It ensures that both parties are on the same page regarding the project timeline.
- An accurate estimate can help prevent disputes down the road.
A good web development agency will take all of these factors into consideration when providing an estimate to a prospective client. They will also be upfront about any potential challenges that could impact the accuracy of the estimate.
By being transparent and providing accurate estimates, a web maintenance agency can build trust with its clients and establish itself as a reliable partner. This partnership is important.
By finding an agency that offers a website maintenance plan that meets all of these criteria, you can be sure that your website will be in good hands.
There are a lot of website maintenance agencies out there but not all of them will have great customer service. The #1 biggest complaint we get from potential clients is that their last provider was “unresponsive”.
You want to make sure that the agency you choose is responsive, helpful, and easy to work with. The last thing you want is to be dealing with an unresponsive support team when your website has an issue, small and in particular critical.
Of course, if you are looking for one, give us a call, we have a great recommendation 😉