Website Maintenance: The Unsung Hero

Hannah's Photo by Hannah Rowbotham


An open letter to clients.

You don’t mind paying for things when you see a dramatic change; a new website design - a new brand identity - a professionally printed brochure instead of a version you did in Word. 

It’s exciting! We totally get that. We get excited about presenting those things to you because we know your reaction will be great.

With the exception of a few industries, people are used to paying money and seeing change. And rightly so. As humans we are used to trading; give this to get that. We trade money for a product and expect that product to transform our day; whether it means you have food in your fridge, hot water through your taps, or a car on your drive.

With Website Maintenance this is impossible. It’s silent. 

There’s no physical deliverable. No transformational product and no excitement (unless you’re nerds like us). It's kind of sad.

But it’s essential; just like insurance is for the car, or boiler cover is for those hot showers.

If it’s not broken, or there’s no obvious problem visible, how do you know we’ve fixed it? How do you know there was even a problem to start with? 

The fact is, you don’t. There’s no smoke coming from the engine or icicles in your pipes. And that’s why it’s so tricky to convince you that you need it.

The very fact that your website never/rarely breaks is because of our active maintenance, and that’s why it gets completely overlooked. You never see the consequence of it not being done. This is completely our fault and we’re sorry.

This leads to another challenge we face: Not only is there no physical or exciting deliverable, but do you even need to know it’s being done?

Each month, we send reports of exactly what has been done and why, so you can see the difference made - but, and this is where I’m struggling, should you (as the client) need to know?

Why should you need to concern yourself with how healthy your website is, or how it’s performing on a technical level? You’ve got enough going on. All you need to know is that it’s OK, and up until now it’s been fine without any mention of Website Maintenance.

So we’ve then got the problem of how much we explain and how technical we get before we bore you to sleep.

We’re your developers. We’re the people closest to your website’s code. And for a long time we’ve shielded you, our clients, from the importance of maintenance.

We do a lot behind the scenes (probably naively and because we like you) and found ourselves doing website maintenance for free, which is an impossible and dangerous business model. Here’s why...

The internet is ridiculous. When you think of how relatively ‘new’ it is and how much we now depend on it - it’s one of the biggest inventions… well… ever. It’s constantly morphing and evolving meaning your website has to keep up with the changes.

For us to keep on top of the changes in web standards, in search ranking factors, in security updates, and so on, it takes such a lot of reading and researching. To then make sure your site (and all other client websites) still conform takes even longer: We review the quality of the code and edit any conflicts, host a complete version history of your website code off-site, host and maintain your staging website so it’s still available for future amends, maintain your server to make sure the environment is secure and efficient, schedule and store rolling backups, and do any framework upgrades, to name a few things. A website is never truly finished. 

We want to help to keep your website healthy but we can't do that for free forever.

Unless all of these things are regularly done or maintained, to repair the resulting problems would be huge and the impact on your business would be transformational for all the wrong reasons. 

I’m not really sure what I expect to come from posting this but felt like it needed to be out of my head. 

If you’re a client, let us know what you think - do you recognise the value in it? How detailed would you want the reports to be each month? Read more about what it is and why you need it here

Maybe other agencies struggle with this too - if so, let’s chat!

Maintainably yours, 

Hannah


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