But it worked yesterday!

You wake up in the morning get that first cup of coffee, check your email to see what’s going on and find out there is a problem with your website. Surely it’s operator error, you think as you fire up the computer to see. And there it is. An error. Or worse yet, a blank white screen. Why? What happened? You didn’t do anything. You search for the information on that company that charged you all that money to build the site and never contacted you again. Off goes an email, constantly hitting refresh in hopes they will answer but they never do.

Maybe it’s not that drastic. Maybe the boss just wants you to change something. So you reach out to the builders and, if they respond, they quote you a huge amount of money for the change and tell you it will take weeks to finish.

That is how web developers get a bad reputation. They prey on the lack of knowledge of those wanting a web presence and make it seem like the amount of work they are actually doing is huge. Don’t get me wrong. If it was easy everyone would do it themselves. But being realistic is best for everyone.

What is the Root Cause?

The number one problem with most websites is neglect. It seems everyone will build it for you, but nobody wants to take the time to check on it regularly and keep things up to date. Then, as time goes by, critical updates don’t get done and you wake up one morning to a broken site.

Is it difficult to do? Not really, but you need to know what you are doing to keep everything working, and consistency can eliminate panic. Sometimes an update itself will break a site. That’s why a quality developer has an update plan to make sure, if something does break, they can get it back quickly.

So how do you get your high dollar design company to keep on top of things? The short answer is you don’t. I’m not saying everyone out there are crooks, it’s just that many focus on the big up front project rather than the day-to-day maintenance. To very large companies, the amount made on routine maintenance isn’t enough to warrant expending the labor. That’s why a separate maintenance contract is the way to go. Unless it’s rolled into the package up front, consider getting something in writing outlining what will be done to keep the site working.

What Are My Options?

Usually, maintenance and enhancements are separate. You can have a flat monthly or annual fee that covers updating and perhaps posting of blog and news entries. Most times this is all you need. Changes to the site, additions of new sections or deletions are usually quoted and billed separately.

What about troubleshooting and fixing a broken site? When working with WordPress sites, it seems every developer has a favorite theme they like to work with. Many times when accepting a job to fix what’s broken, I spend the biggest amount of time trying to figure out what the last person was thinking. I don’t change the theme unless that is the actual problem, I learn a new one. This helps me grow by combining what I know with what I can learn.

The Bottom Line

So what does this all boil down to? Customer service. Just like you don’t want to sit at a table in a restaurant wondering if the waitress quit and if you will ever get a second cup of coffee, you don’t want to stare at a blank screen wondering if your web company is ever going to answer your email. You want personal interaction. That comfort of knowing if your site breaks on Friday night, you are not out until sometime Monday or later. Customer service isn’t dead. It’s just that many companies are too concerned with quantity over quality.

Just like a restaurant, you like going back to the ones with good service, and your web development company should be no different.