As I may have mentioned in the past, I participate in a number of social network Groups, mainly in Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you aren’t yet participating in these, you don’t know what you’re missing as they provide an ongoing source of information, opinion, advice, market research and even genuine business leads.
One great reason for me to participate in these forums is to get an understanding of the problems smaller business operators are having with their business’s digital presence.
One of the consistent themes that many report is around maintenance and alterations to their websites.
Half the time I’m astonished with what I’m reading when it comes to this often very costly and time consuming area.
Double technical trouble
The biggest reported problems appear to be in two camps:
- The business operator has tried to build a relatively complex website themselves and run into difficulty; or
- The website development professional who established the website has assumed the client will be able to maintain and alter the website functionality themselves and essentially left them stranded.
The reported problems themselves are many and varied – everything from hacking issues and plugin incompatibilities to unexplained faults, disappearing pages and everything in between.
In my view, good websites should simply never have these issues as they are beyond the reasonable technical skill level of ordinary business operators.
So how do we avoid getting into this technical tangle?
How much DIY for you?
The very first thing that should be established with the client is their level of skill or preparedness to maintain their website.
At this point it’s important to differentiate between content maintenance and technical maintenance.
Content maintenance refers to the ability of the business operator or their staff to be able to manage the text, images, menus, links and downloadable files within the website. In most cases the goal of the website should be for the business operator or their staff – if they wish to – to have the ability to manage these aspects relatively easily.
By relatively easily I mean the ability to use common editing tools, the likes of which are used in Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. In fact these two programs can have much more functionality that a good content management system (CMS) needs too.
Technical maintenance refers to the ongoing maintenance of the functionality of the website necessitated by either upgrades is associated technology (like browser upgrades) or new functionality as required by the business operator (for example, adding an e-commerce capability).
When to leave it to the techies
Provided you have been looked after by your website development professional, there should be no or at least negligible requirement for the business operator to be involved in technical maintenance.
This at the very most should amount to no more than an automated upgrade function, as indicated by an alert within your website system. But for many CMS (usually the software-as-a-service or SaaS variety), even this level of technical maintenance is unnecessary because it is performed by the provider.
Of course some business operators choose to get trained or train themselves to get more involved in the technical side of their website. But in most cases this shouldn’t be necessary or even desirable. Most business operators have much better things to do than learn to become overly technical – particularly when a professional should be able to do it much faster and cheaper than the business operator can do it themselves.
There’s always a fine line between acceptable DIY and too much DIY. And that line varies from business to business.
Using is believing
The best way to determine what’s the right level of DIY for you is to get the website platform demonstrated to you for the kind of alterations you will typically need. Actually come up with a list of these common alterations and get your website development professional to demonstrate this to you. This will quickly allow you to identify where that line is for your business.
For anything that falls over this line, there needs to be ready assistance available to the business operator to make the alteration required – quickly and affordably.
The bottom line is if you website professional hasn’t made it easy and affordable to make alterations of any kind, its time to find a new one.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.