Let’s be honest. Most of the clients that usually search for this kind of service do so as a result of two major things which impact their ability to overlook their website themselves: knowledge and time.
Whenever creating a new online business, few manage to realize the full scope of it. They contract someone to make their website or they make their website on their own through one of those easy-to-build platforms, and then are found in the awkward scenario when the website being done is not enough. More is needed. More time, more resources and definitely more knowledge.
What happens in the end is the website itself starts to quickly break or show cracks and issues very early one since it’s inception. That’s when the owners usually say “enough is enough” and they contact web management agencies like ours.
But there’s a different discussion to be had at this point. One which we’ve had with our clients as well. In essence, you know what you want as the owner of your business. You want someone to “take care” of the website for you. But what does that actually mean? What should you look for? What are the essentials of a good website maintenance service?
1. Servers that prioritize stability and performance.
This aspect is exclusive to those web management services (kind of like ours) that are dependent on a included hosting service as well. In this case, the agency needs to provide with the minimum optimal server for your website. One that can not only handle the requests and the traffic of your website, but also potential future changes and tweaks that might require additional resources. Although you might cut on monthly or yearly expenses, avoid selecting an option that is the bare minimum for your website. Not only the website will always be at risk of not functioning properly but speed will also be affected.
2. Backups & Security
This is a crucial feature of any web maintenance service. Backups should be done regularly, at least on a weekly basis, preferred however daily. So many things can go wrong at any point with your website. From a plugin update that breaks something to a potential unwanted attack. This is where both backups and a strong security system in place are core requirements. You should always want to maintain your website in the clean zone of the internet as any major malfunctions and security errors will negatively impact the image of your online business as well as the Google rating of your website.
3. Monitoring Uptime & Front-End Errors
Internal Server Error. Error 404. You know. The usual that can be avoided and especially fixed in time when/ if it ever happens. Another core characteristic of a good web maintenance service is that it always monitors your uptime and your front-end errors. From pages that completely break to images that don’t show up or forms or CTAs (on short, buttons) that lost their functionality. Agencies need to reliably interfere in a timely manner as soon as any of these issues pop-up and this only can be done if the website is monitored properly.
4. Updates (Theme, Plugins, CMS, Server)
If you designed your website using one of those online-only platforms like Weebly or Wix, then this aspect is mostly not going to be an issue as their safe delivery is in most cases guaranteed. However, when you created a website outside of those platforms, then the agency that handles the website maintenance has to guarantee the proper testing and safe deployment of all necessary updates. It is especially tricky with custom website since not all plugins and interfaces or platforms used are compatible with each other. So the website can easily fall victim to poor updates and lack of attention. However, it must be noted, that even with a rigorous testing method before updating the website, which is usually done on a staging variant (on short, a website copy), malfunctions can still appear on live product during natural interaction between users and your website. So while any update errors are not necessarily the fault of the web maintenance team, it surely is a subject that needs to be discussed and properly explained by the team whenever an issue reaches the live website.
A good web maintenance service will always try to improve the experience for your users. And one of the best ways to do that is through optimizing the speed at which the website runs at, especially on mobile devices. A lot of the automated optimizations should be supported by most of the web management agencies. Of course, extra work can always be covered and expenses are expected but the foundation for proper optimization needs to be implemented by the agency. What can automated optimization cover? Code minification, image-format conversions as well as server side tweaks are all core-changes that will positively impact the speed of your website.
6. Content Updates
A web maintenance service without providing the client a minimum of monthly hours that they can use for various requests is, at least in our opinion, a shallow web maintenance services that focuses just on the tech-based background of a website. The reality is most of our clients need to make certain updates in their websites. From new categories in their store to maybe a new front page teaser, a new newsletter, a new pop-up or additional design and functionality changes. This is where the value is mostly seen for our clients. The unfortunate aspect of all the above points is that most of them are behind-the-scenes stuff that isn’t actually tangible for a client to directly experience. Especially when the website is working, since as an agency, that’s when clients can feel they’re overpaying the most. It’s very easy for a client to feel that there is no problem and he shouldn’t pay for such service because things that happen passively, in the background, are not visible to him. But content updates are. And whenever we provide them in a timely manner, that’s when the satisfaction in our services increases. This is why, whenever searching for an agency, make sure that they do cover content updates in some form or fashion and you’re not left with just a mostly passive service.
7. Transparency in Communication
Probably the most important thing on the list is -in our opinion- an open agency that communicates things clearly when needed and does not bother the client with nonsense requests. Transparency involves delivering clients important updates and always making sure that they understand the situation but also delivering project time reports where the time spent by the team on your website is clearly visible. We believe this goes a long way in the communication with our clients as they can visibly see the effort behind their requests.
Overall, always look out for these things in the agency you want to commit to, as we consider them to be core benefits for a complete and professional web management package. All the other services like design, SEO changes and adverts, are not really part of what a web maintenance team should offer as the required expertise is different and separate. Hence why usually they are sold as separate packages, even if they’re available at the same agency.