WebSite Maintenance: Pros, Cons and Solutions for Non-Web Professionals
The two cornerstones of web site development have always been that you can either:
(a) build your own site and maintain everything yourself, or
(b) you can hire a web professional to handle everything for you.
The first option could face you with lacking with skill and experience to do it right,
while the second option may leave you feeling powerless to manage your own site.
Many people today are choosing the middle-ground: hiring a web professional to set up their site so they can maintain parts or all of it themselves. This is known as "self maintenance".
What self maintenance can do
The purpose of self maintenance is to make a user handle a task that would otherwise normally be beyond their skill level. Self maintenance can include even the simplest of functions, such as simple text changes, new web pages and page templates for graphics placement and switching. On the more advanced level, it can include updating entry fields (such as prices on an e-commerce site), implementing current customer databases to work with search functions on a site, and setting up password-protected areas only the customer or key people can access.
Who does self maintenance?
Self maintenance is the most popular type of web site development today. It includes the majority of businesses, which meet several or all of the following criteria:
- Small-to-medium in size
- Those already with their own web sites
- Those considering building web sites
- Limited web budget
- Have information or databases that regularly need updating, and
- Little or no actual web professionals on their staff
Reasons for self maintenance
Two of the biggest reasons for self maintenance are money and control. Customers believe that they can save money by doing the web work themselves. Customers also want to be able to make changes to their site when they want to, rather than working with a third party's schedule.
Where to start
Self Maintenance always starts off with an acknowledgement by the customer that they must hire a web professional to accomplish their initial goals since they don't have the necessary skill or experience to do it themselves. The customer also must understand that a certain amount of expertise or understanding may be required, depending on the level of what self maintenance they wish to do. In turn, it is the web professional's responsibility to educate the customer on their options open to them so they can make an informed decision.
Problems can usually surface, however, if the customer is not upfront in the beginning with their intentions to maintain their own site. If they don't tell the web professional before work begins (or even worse, when the site is finished) what they intend to maintain on their own, the customer could end up undoing a lot of the work the professional did and incur additional repair costs just to get back to where they started.
In turn, it is the web professional's responsibility to be upfront about the costs involved with setting up a site that can be maintained by a non-professional. It will always involved more work than setting up a regular, static web site, so the costs will be greater than without it. Even if the web professional does not charge you extra, web hosting fees (both monthly and setup) are always greater for sites that involve any kind of special programming. Be sure to check with your web host in advance for the new features and programming you wish to add to make sure its still within your budget.
Both the professional and the customer must have a realistic approach to what requires self maintenance. It would be pointless to create a special self maintenance program for an area of your site that receives very little traffic, has little data, or does not require regular changes. (Most of the work there could be done much less expensively on a case-by-case basis.) Don't let your zeal for self maintenance leave you with a bloated and ineffective web site!
Limits with self maintenance
No amount of self maintenance can replace a web professional in knowing how to best reach a site's target audience. If one of your goals is to place well in the search engines, creating self-maintained web pages could seriously affect your chances of placing well, or even placing at all. No computer program is a substitute for a web marketer who understands how to write, design, and reach your target audience. If your goal is usability (i.e., creating a site that most effectively meets the needs of your target audience and gives you expected returns), a computer program is not going to tell you what you are doing wrong.
Self maintenance can be an cost-effective and efficient way of maintaining your web site, but it should never run your web site in place of an actual person. Self maintenance should always be used to support your end goals: bringing traffic to your site, providing your audience with a quality experience, and generating conversions — instead of being a goal unto itself.
You may initially save some money and gain a little control in the short run, but you can end up paying more and losing a lot of control if you don't think things through. Better to find a web professional you can put your trust in, than to trust a computer program that doesn't care a bit whether your site succeeds or fails.
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