For many web designers there is no discussion on this – it’s an OMDB (Over My Dead Body) decision. At WEB-right, we take a different approach, and I thought it might be useful to explore what we do and why.
What happens elsewhere?
First, let’s have a look at some of the practices out in the industry.
Some websites are still built without a content management system (CMS) – this usually provides the client with a very quick to load website, but one which isn’t easily amended. The web designers will make changes … and charge a significant fee, either as a monthly maintenance fee, or as individual charges for each change. Over time this can make the website a significant investment, even if the initial outlay was quite modest. It also often adds delay in getting changes implemented, and leaves the client without control.
Lots of other websites are built and maintained by the business owners themselves. Larger companies might employ trained staff for this. In small companies, the web ‘designer’ and maintainer has many other duties, and so is not a specialist. This is often evident when you look at their site. Small businesses see this as an easy, low cost option. Being inexperienced, they will often spend far longer creating the site than a professional would, and that is time which would be better spent on their core business activities. The website maintenance falls by the wayside when the pressure of the core business builds up.
What happens at WEB-right
As in most things, the extreme ends of a spectrum are not the best places to be. We only build sites based on a CMS and, while we encourage our clients to manage some of their own content, we are always there to help out when they are pushed for time. We have a few clients on a ‘maintenance contract’, but these always cover more than just website updates, and we don’t operate the ‘use it or lose it’ method of time-tracking.
A question of need and trust
Most clients only ‘need’ to add things like posts (news), events and gallery images to keep their site up-to-date, relevant, and interesting to both humans and Google. This can be achieved with a little effort on our part, providing some training and step by step documentation with screen shots. Occasionally clients get themselves in a pickle and call us to sort it out, but this is no great trouble for us, and helps to keep the lines of communication open after the website has been built.
Some clients, however, need and want more control. This is where trust comes in. Because we’re dealing with a small number of individuals, we don’t always set up custom privileges – it’s much easier to give them Admin access and warnings about the dire consequences (and subsequent bill) if they mess the site up. We trust them, and they respond by being sensible. This approach has worked for over ten years as the clients recognise the value of their website, and don’t want to damage their precious asset.
There’s always one …
Yes, there’s always one client who wants to go a bit further. She has a seasonal business so, apart from extended globe-trotting holidays, she spends much of the winter kicking her heals. This year she’s wanted to use the page builder (Elementor) to re-design the look of her pages. Then came the phone call:
“There are some things I want to do which I can’t seem to do with Elementor.”
“That’s because they are controlled by the theme.” (Blox, successor to Headway).
“Err … can I have access to the Theme?”
After further warnings of the cost of a website meltdown, I gave her full admin access.
Although she has used computers systems most of her working life (she’s just over 40), she has never built or programmed anything, and I was amazed at how quickly she mastered the basics. There have been a few ‘I don’t understand’ calls, but nothing seriously broken.
Typographically, the site ended up looking a bit messy. My business partner said, “If the site stays like that, we’ll have to take our name off the footer.” So I took her to task over contrast, use of underlines, text size and line length, and the importance of checking her site on a Windows PC, having built it on a Mac.
Would we do it again?
Yes, given that we have some confidence in the client’s ability, and trust them to know when to ask for help.
We may have lost out on some chargeable work in this instance, but it’s part of our way of doing business, staying engaged with clients, and keeping them loyal to us in the long term.