Website Maintenance: Does Your Business Website Really Need A Support Plan?
Website maintenance can be a vexing issue, subject to a great deal of confusion and abuse by unscrupulous suppliers. I'm prompted to write this by some amazingly arrogant posts I've seen by website providers lately. In one thread, one lady was bad-mouthing a customer for cancelling a support contract and bragging that the customer had asked for some additional pages on his site (which he would pay for) but that he could 'go to hell'.
Additionally, she had requested that same customer to sign a statement that in the event of his website crashing, she was in no way responsible. She gave the impression that without a website maintenance contract, the customer's website would fall to pieces in short order. As we will see, this is a half-truth used as a scare tactic.
So I decided to write an article about the nature of website maintenance that will help you to decide what, if anything, your business website needs . I will be referring specifically to websites built with WordPress combined with other bespoke specialized code that business often needs.
Does Your Business Website Need a Website Maintenance Contract?
First, let's consider two types of support for websites:
- Technical Support
- Update support
Technical support basically covers keeping your website going. Most websites need updates every few weeks. These are not generally urgent (although some are, where security is concerned), but they do need to be done, or in time, problems can be expected. They are however simple and just take a few minutes.
Let's have a closer look at what technical support you need to keep your site running smoothly and safely.
Our confidence in WordPress Plugin updates is around 98%
Website Maintenance (Technical) for a Simple WordPress Website with No Shop
These websites, usually having a few pages with galleries and blogs, with no special features, only require around thirty minutes per month to update plugins and check performance.
As long as you can log into your own WordPress website, you can update the plugins and keep your website running. It's a simple 'click and carry' on operation.
Yes, things can go wrong and that's when you need your website support engineer to sort things out, but this is a rare occurrence, because WordPress plugins are subject to rigorous compliance testing and specification before they are issued.
Keep Your Plugins and WordPress Up to date and Sleep Soundly!
Other issues that may occur relate to hosting. Sometimes, as WordPress is updated and plugins are updated, new versions of the software used on the hosting platform are required. You need to be technically proficient to get these changes made, but such cases are quite rare because almost all changes in the plugins are backwards compatible.
Sydney Business Web handles this by including all technical website maintenance in our hosting fee. The website owner never even becomes aware of changes as they are taken care of.
Simple WordPress websites require very little website maintenance
Website Maintenance for Complex Business Websites
There is a great deal more that can go wrong with a complex business website or eCommerce Website that a simple WordPress website. Typically a business website will have a mix of the following:
- eCommerce Shop with multiple products and product variations
- Specialized speed technologies
- Payment gateways
- Appointment systems
- Specialized sales enhancement plugins
- Specialized code for product displays
- Instagram and other integration code
- Email systems integration
- CRM for customer account registration and communications
- Shipping software and integration
- Specialized code snippets required for custom features.
- Booking facilities (hotels etc)
- Appointments Systems
- Calendar and events systems
Each of these facilities works with all the others very well >99.9% of the time. The problem is though that when things do go wrong with an update, it takes a fair degree of technical knowledge and patience to pin the problem down quickly and fix it. The average user will simply have no idea. But sadly, neither will a great many website designers!
Many website designers have a business model that's quite simply 'churn and burn'. They use advanced drag & drop design tools to create a site but do not have the knowledge to cope when things go wrong. There are host of forums on Facebook that attest to this truth.
Typically you will see posts such as "I've won this job - can someone tell me how to do it?" or, "my customer wants this but I don't know how" or "Help - my customer's site is down".
They usually get away with this until something goes wrong. A website support contract with such an agency has less value that a circus ticket the day after the show left town and all that's left to do is to clean up the elephant poo.
if you are running a competently designed, complex WordPress business website, then the possibility of problems arising are still low. However, you simply cannot afford down-time, so having a professional company update software as required and keeping an eye on performance is essential - and it's also peace of mind. This will be one of the best investments you have made in your online business. But make sure your designer is technically competent before you invest in a business website.
A Business eCommerce Website Owner cannot tolerate downtime!
Contracts for Non Technical Website Maintenance
This is different to website technical support contracts. Commercial websites - Business Websites - often require frequent updates for products, prices and images. Although you can do these changes yourself, they do take time and a little patience. So I always ask business owners - do you have the time? Do you want to spend time on your website or on your business? if you are happy to do that, we'll provide the training.
If you prefer us to do it, we usually start our customers on a four hour per month contract. As we have designed the sites, we can be quick and efficient and do the work in a fraction of the time it would take our customers. If the hours are too long, we can reduce the commitment.
For simple websites, we do not suggest these contracts because the content is very rarely updated and it's quite efficient to quote for the work that needs doing as it arises.
Website Maintenance for Small Simple Websites
These websites very rarely give trouble, but it's good to always be prepared.
If you have a small simple WordPress website, your technical website maintenance comprises very little work in most months - maybe thirty minutes. Security means that it is important to update plugins and WordPress when updates are available. Your designer can teach you to do this in fifteen minutes flat. (Most of our clients host with us so we do it for them and also conduct performance checks.)
However, when things go wrong, if you don't have any support agreement, it could cost you a lot of money, as some agencies are not competent or worse and may spend hours trying to fix something trivial. So do make sure you have an honest, technically competent supplier who will take care of you.
Also, make sure you have full access to your website just in case your website designer cannot help or has 'gone away'.
If you want to regularly update website content, you should consider a monthly agreement which will generally be more cost-effective and efficient than getting a quotation every time. For small websites, we have never seen this need arise.
Complex Business Website Maintenance
These websites don't often give trouble but when they do it can be technically demanding
The more plugins and bespoke code a website has, the trickier it can be to track the problem down. You should have a technical support program with a competent supplier. As far as you can, make sure they are qualified to do this and that they are not purely 'designers'.
With respect to website changes, if you have a shop online, then you will probably want to change prices, add products, remove products etc quite regularly. A support contract with your supplier, just for such changes, will be well worthwhile and save you valuable time that is best spent on your business.
If you have questions about this subject, please call or message me personally - I'm here to help.