More than just a Website
More than just a Website!
This last weekend we took a new client’s website live – which is always an exciting event for the client and for any web design company. You work with the client from the point of an initial sales inquiry to analysis to design and development and then deployment.
Most clients now have a training session as well as final review of the website and then commence their roles as Content Managers. There was quite a bit of work taking this particular client live – and it made me think about the things we do once we leave the design and development phase of a website.
So that’s it – once you have launched their site your work is done?
In actual fact that is really when the second phase of our relationship commences as we begin the long term relationship of working and supporting the client as their website and visitation begins to grow. I know there are many design companies out there that do sign off at the point of the website going live – and I know why they do it – it is not easy supplying support for clients post the design launch. It is not sexy – there is a learning curve that is almost perpetual for the client and most websites just don’t stay the same for too long…
Most website don’t stay the same… – Is that because you designed it wrong?
That is a good question – and it is very critical in the design and planning phase to make sure you not only know the current business model of the client – but also understand future plans so they can be incorporated into a website in the future. Adding new menus and content with a Content Management Systems (CMS) are very easy – the real challenges comes when the client adds new business and marketing models and concepts post their initial website design.
For example – a great long standing realtor client of ours started off with their website as all clients do and after the first 6 months recognized the value of additional domains (or really sub-domains) that could drive additional traffic to their website. This meant adding new domains to the clients portfolio and then designing a template design (based on the brand and current website design) – and then incorporating the new sub-domains into the clients existing account. As with the initial website development – the client wanted value for their money – they did not want the site to be hosted separately from their current site – they did not want multiple companies to deal with in maintaining and managing their websites – and they wanted to be able to make future adjustments with someone who already understood their business model.
So in a nutshell – this reinforces why you guys provide hosting services to clients?
Absolutely – this is very good example. The premise that you can build a website – and then have it sit with a host (maybe even a host you don’t know ) and then have the site perform for you without any client or host/management support interaction is just a fairy tale – like all aspects of business – the website is a working component of your business – it is alive and it requires specialized support and hosting to grow and prospect.
I am STILL amazed when I read web design companies FAQ that states “You can host the site anywhere you like”… – which can be easily translated into “It doesn’t matter where or with whom you host the site – we are not going to suffer the consequences of your decision…” This is a classic sign for a prospect to recognize the relationship you will be receiving with that web design company will end the day your website goes live. So when you need to modify your e-mail accounts, check your statistics, add a new menu option or update content with a content management systems you will be sitting in “no-man’s land” – where the host will basically supply a place for your website to sit on the web (and pending who that is they may have 10,000 other clients doing the same thing) – and your design company will say you need to work with the host to make future changes (as we don’t providing hosting services – we just design). How on earth would the client who owns one website know where they should host their website?
So Hosting a Website is not the same as Managing A Website?
Hosting classically is where you physically place your website on the internet – with your domain name being the way people get to that website. Large hosting companies have thousands of web server’s setup and that is what their client’s websites reside on. Hosting is the physical place your website sits. Not every hosting company is the same – nor do they provide the same technology. That in itself is what makes me role my eyes on the “Host Anywhere” statement. If one host has great web management tools – and one host doesn’t – isn’t the decision of the host going to be critical. If one host provides great service and one doesn’t – isn’t the decision of hosting even more critical?
So just out of curiosity – Do you actually Host your client’s websites?
We host 35 client websites with a large hosting company in Chicago (HostForWeb). We have been with them for approximately 5 years and they have been outstanding. Because of the long relationship we have with our host and the fact we understand their services inside and out – we can provide our clients with superb support services – quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. From our client’s prospective we (BeareWare) provide the full line of support on their websites – so our clients don’t actually ever talk to their physical host company. (We deal with the host company allowing us to provide a much higher level of expertise in that support role)…
What doesn’t the Website Host Do?
Great question that should be asked by every new website owner – (before they even commence the development phase). The Website Host is primarily a physical hosting location – so in short they are not responsible for any actual operational and content management aspects of the websites. They are responsible to ensure the website functions correctly – based on their hosting facility, software, and setup. When you type a domain name in a browser – you get to the site – and it comes up with your browser. Just about everything beyond that point is then the responsibility of the designers (how the site looks and functions), and the support and content managers are then responsible for updating content, e-mails accounts, menu items, ftp servers, etc. The hosting account will also supply statistical software and other helpful software – but they don’t actually use the software – it is up to client being hosted to learn how to use these tools.
Web Owners Need More than just a Physical Host!
So you can see the support gap – and the need for a Support/Management Group that will provide technical support to clients (and their visitors) – and will provide the management services that a client might need. This varies from client to client – today’s website owners are getting more involved in their website & content management (really there are getting more educated and knowledgeable) and their support requirements are more detailed enhancements to the website and high level technical support.
As with our example above – the support/management group will add subdomains – then setup web pages for those subdomains to link to the primary website. Again – a standard host is not going to provide this level of service (or they will at a billable rate beyond hosting.) I have been very interested to see domain registrars are now providing services such as web design and hosting – and many add-on products and services. If you have registered a domain name recently this will ring a bell – you get a full page of “side bar” questions such as – “Do you want a hosting location with that, do you want us to design your website – do you want FRIES with that????” The registrars have designed this model based to some extent on the “Web Design and Development Company” – that designs and runs – leaving the new web client to the mercy of these very large organizations.
The amazing thing about the web industry is it is now very different than it was 5 years ago. The business models within the industry are ever changing – we have smaller specialized companies (such as BeareWare) that provide full support and management services to compliment their design and development. The one off webmaster is almost a thing of the past and then we have the very large registrars and hosting companies now offering as many products as they can quite often that require additional support (for a fee).
As today’s topic states – “More Than Just A Website” is really highlighting the complexity and choices required to ensure the long term success with your website . Your success simply doesn’t come from a good looking website alone. From the early days with our company – BeareWare has always provided the long term support and management services for our clients. As stated earlier in this article it sure ain’t the sexy side of the business – but it is as important as the design side of the business. Companies that win with their websites do so because of strong host and support relationships – that help them grow, develop and prosper in a constantly changing environment.
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included strategic website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still primarily a webmaster. And this is “Interview with a Webmaster.”