What do clients expect of their web developer after their web site is built? This industry is a far cry from most all others in regard to the post-project needs of the customer. The main reason for this is that websites are never truly done. Cars are basically done when they are built, it is the same with homes, and even with most services rendered. As Chris Butler likes to say, “the internet is a work in progress.” Simple tune-ups aren’t enough. Websites need to be in a state of continual improvement and positive growth, lest they give the impression that they are aging and irrelevant. As Newfangled has been developing sites over the past fourteen years, we have come across a few nuggets that I consider to be fundamental truths of the web, and that quote from Chris is one of them.
The expertise, service and technical capabilities for which we are hired at the project stage are all just as necessary during the post-project stage, to which refer as the relationship stage.
The Relationship Stage
Of course, there is a relationship in place during the initial project, but the relationship is just being built at that point, and the focus of that initial stage is the project, not the relationship. Once the project is done, we are left with a great website, and each other – the client and the developer. This is a very loose parallel to parents raising a child to maturity and then sending her off to school. There is the child, who is off on her own and doing great. Some of her raising stuck, some didn’t, but the job isn’t over. That young adult is going to need a good deal of nurturing, smart attention and, probably, a little cash now and again!
We talk about this internally at Newfangled, how putting a site live is oddly similar at times to bringing a baby into the world, but I see now that the comparison goes far beyond the going live stage. Funny how writing exposes insights.
So, this is what we’ve realized as an inescapable truth. Once the site goes live, our clients are going to need a lot of help from us, regardless of what anyone says or thinks. Now that we have gotten very good at building sites, we see that It is at the post-project stage that we make or break it. We are judged, ultimately, by our performance over the long haul.
This has everything to do with our transition from simply hosting to Total Managed Support. Hosting is the essential bare minimum. We’ve done such a good job at keeping sites up that our clients actually never really even think about hosting, but just keeping a site up is nowhere close to good enough. We need to not only keep the site running, but we must also be constantly available for any type of question that our clients might have about a new feature they’d like to add to their site, a bug that popped up, or a question about the latest doodad or tech rumor. This is not a problem, it is actually a wonderful opportunity, and an honor.
We’ve done a good job of fielding these requests, and that has resulted in almost all of our clients staying with us for a very long time. But this, in addition to guaranteeing 99.9% uptime, is not enough. In order for us to be the resource our clients need us to be, we need to be proactive. Now, for our Total Managed Support clients, we are proactively reviewing their site every month and getting in touch with them to bring their attention to things that are out of the ordinary, be it good news or bad. Each month we review our clients’ Google Analytics accounts and their general on-page approach to SEO and proactively set up a meeting to discuss our findings. Basically, we have their back.
Serve is a verb, and sitting back waiting for clients to call us isn’t what we consider service to be. Total Managed Support is our way of doing everything we can to make sure our clients have every opportunity to keep their “web-based work in progress” in top form for the long haul.
This is much more expensive than typical hosting, but it is money well spent, and necessarily spent. Starting in January of this year, all new clients were put on our Total Managed Support model. Since we realize that clients who choose Newfangled have a very high expectation of their site’s performance, this service is not optional. Total Managed Support is the foundation of the promise we make to every client to be the expert resource they absolutely need us to be, for the entirety of what is sure to be a long and positive relationship.