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Website Maintenance: 6 Things You Need to Ask First

September 7, 2017

You’ve launched an awesome new website and you want to make sure it stays awesome. Heck, we would even suggest that your site should get better after it launches. The odds are pretty good that if you’ve landed on this page, you’re trying to find out more about website maintenance and how to find the right company. Undoubtedly, you will have your own set of criteria for choosing, but oftentimes clients are thinking about budget and deadlines. To help you find a great fit for your website, we have put together a list of 6 questions to ask before engaging with a new website maintenance company.

Will you work on my site, even if it was created by someone else?

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an important question to ask. Many web developers won’t work on a site that they didn’t develop. Others will only work within a specific framework or Content Management System – typically the framework or CMS they use when building their own websites. Then you will find agencies, like Aspen Web Engineering, that have developers dedicated strictly to website maintenance who are comfortable working on a wide range of platforms. Once you’ve found a developer who can work on your site, you can then help determine whether or not they are a good fit.

How much are you going to charge me for the work?

Why should I pay for a Rolex when my Timex tells the time just the same? For that matter, why don’t I just check my smartphone if I want to know what time it is? The price you pay is going to vary by agency, and we aren’t necessarily here to tell you how much you should pay for website maintenance. However, we recommend finding a company that is transparent in their billing and process. Ask if tasks are billed hourly or on a project basis, whether or not time spent scoping the work is billable, and what happens if a task ends up taking longer than expected.

Do I have to be on a maintenance retainer?

Very few agencies will do hourly work, or contract-free work – most require a retainer contract, meaning that if you need something done by an agency you haven’t worked with before, you might be waiting longer than you’d like. Other agencies, including Aspen Web Engineering, offer both retainer work and hourly work, and your agency should be able to explain the benefits of each approach.

Common reasons for having a retainer:

  • A team that works on your site consistently can typically make changes more quickly than someone who is working on your site for the first time

  • Discounted rate on hours/work

  • Priority scheduling

  • Having retainer hours to use each month can keep your team focused on continuously creating content and improving your site

If I’m on a retainer, what happens with my hours?

If you are looking at a retainer it’s important to find out how your hours are being used. We typically break down retainers as “proactive” vs “reactive.” Typically if you have a retainer with a higher number of hours, you can expect more work to be done proactively – you might have an account manager, and monthly, quarterly, or yearly deliverables. With a lower number of hours, you might expect a more reactive retainer – a number of hours to be used to make changes at your request.

Who owns my website files?

We have a pretty strong about opinion about who should own your website once the work is completed and paid for (hint: it’s you!). However, it’s not always the case. It’s important to know up-front who owns your site files. Some website contracts stipulate that the developer (or designer or agency) owns the files, and therefor you can’t take them to be worked on by someone else (or hosted somewhere else).

Shouldn’t my hosting company do maintenance?

Since Aspen Web Engineering offers both hosting and maintenance services, we hear this questions often. Many people think their web host does their maintenance, but that is typically not the case. Hosting and maintenance are two very different services. If you think that your current website host is also providing website maintenance, it’s worth finding out for sure.

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