When you've spent time, effort and money on a brand new website or app, it's easy to think that everything is done.
You've got everything you wanted, it's looking fantastic and it's already started doing its job of getting you more and better customers.
But in truth. Your new web product is already out of date.
Frustratingly, the internet's ability to push new boundaries and continually improve, means that if you leave your website for any length of time, it's going to get out of date.
A lot of the time it might not be a big deal. But sometimes it can leave you with a serious security problem or a non-functional feature.
Keeping your website up to date with regular maintenance is actually fairly straightforward. Most digital agencies offer packages that will keep your web product looking fab, working brilliantly and maybe even improving it into the future.
In this guide, we'll look at:
Website maintenance can cover a lot of different things but, in short, it's the essential upkeep that keeps your website and the platform or CMS it's running on up to date.
A quick website maintenance checklist would include:
- CMS updates including:
- Security patches
- Updating plugins
- Fixing anything that might have stopped working as a result of the updates
- Cross browser testing, to ensure the site is working in new and updated browsers
- Device compatibility, to ensure the site is working for all supported devices, including new releases
- Server-side updates including regular backups
- Support, including help with using the CMS
- Bug fixing - which can be very important for complex or functional web apps
- A guaranteed response time to queries
Website maintenance packages even often include additional services such as hosting costs, additional design, development or marketing services and out of hours support.
Regular monthly website maintenance is what will keep your website up to date, safe to use and working brilliantly. A failure to do regular upkeep can leave your site vulnerable to hacks, bugs and browser incompatibility.
The first reason to have a website upkeep service is for security. This is especially true if you are using an open source platform such as Wordpress.
Because it's such a widely used platform with thousands upon thousands of themes and plugins, it's particularly vulnerable to security problems. Even their dedicated security plugins need regular updates to stay secure.
If you don't use an open source platform, it's still likely that your website uses one or many open source libraries, plugin or frameworks available, such as jQuery, Bootstrap, Foundation.
It's usually best that a developer complete those updates for you, as they often have knock-on effects for the design or functionality of a site - particularly if your web product is bespoke.
Usability is another big concern, especially for more functional websites. If you have an ecommerce store, booking calendar or a web app, there's a high likelihood of small bugs, broken links and issues cropping up from time to time. It can have a knock-on effect on accessibility too.
If you host with your website maintenance provider, they will usually also provide server-side updates and backups of your site for protection.
That means that if anything goes wrong with the server or the site itself, they will be able to restore a backup and keep things running as smoothly as possible.
A lot of website maintenance contracts also allow for additional work to help with your web product and business growth. This can be in the form of additional features or functionality on the site, improving your website conversion rate or even ongoing SEO and marketing services.
The last big reason that you should think carefully about getting a web maintenance service is priority. Clients who have an ongoing maintenance contract with their developers or digital agency, are going to have guaranteed turnaround times. That means their issues will be prioritised over clients who ask for changes on an ad-hoc basis.
So if you have an urgent issue on your site, but don't have a service agreement in place, you're likely going to be at the back of the queue.
There are a few different levels of website support service available, and it's important to choose the right one for your business and website type.
Ask yourself these questions to help you make the right decision:
- Is my website business critical?
- Can I wait until working hours for issues to be addressed?
- Is my website on an open source platform like Wordpress?
- Do I have a simple, information-based website?
- Could issues on my website lose me money or customers?
- Will I need regular additional design, development or marketing work on my site?
If you have a small, simple website without a CMS (or built on a custom CMS) and you're happy to report issues as and when you find them, then a Reactive, or Pay As You Go, support contract might work for you.
This would mean that you don't have anyone regularly checking your site for updates or issues, and when you spot things that need fixing, you contact your website designers and get a quote for the additional work.
If your website is on an open source platform like Wordpress, then it's advisable that you do have a Proactive website maintenance service, even if it's just for essential updates.
A proactive maintenance contract will mean that your digital agency will do regular checks and updates - usually on a monthly basis.
For websites on a bespoke CMS, this is great to keep on top of browser updates and device compatibility. But if you have a Wordpress website, or use another open source platform, this service is essential for keeping on top of system and plugin updates.
Many of these will be security patches, as open source platforms are a lot more vulnerable to hacks and attacks, so a proactive maintenance service is a real necessity.
If your website is a little more complex, for example if it's got ecommerce, booking or other functionality, you might need a bit more than just proactive support.
Instead of just regular maintenance for browser, CMS and device updates, you might also want your agency to set aside time to develop additional features, provide design for new pages or printwork, or even look at marketing for you.
This can be incredibly valuable if you have a more complex website or provide software as a service. It gives you the ability to adapt your features and functionality to improve the user experience, using your allocated design/development time.
We call this Proactive Plus, where all your essential updates are managed, but you also have dedicated time set aside by your agency for additional work.
The highest level of website maintenance, we call Total Support. This is for clients whose websites are business critical - by which we mean that any loss of availability or functionality on your website poses a critical risk to your business.
This level of support isn't required for the vast majority of websites but, for some, it's essential.
With other website maintenance services, queries and issues are dealt with during business hours. But if with total support, you'll have support out of hours too.
For some businesses that just needs to be an extended working day, for example from 7am-10pm. For some clients that might need to be 24/7 availability.
For the vast majority of clients, we advise a Proactive, or Proactive Plus approach, depending on what your website does for you. But for most small businesses and companies that aren't dependent on their website as their main source of revenue, this level of support will be fine.
We've outlined 4 different levels of service for website updates, but how much does it cost to maintain a website?
Remember, these are just average website maintenance costs at these different service levels. Some agencies will quote higher, some lower, and some won't provide them at all! But this should be a rough guideline for what you can expect to pay.
- Reactive, or Pay as you Go updates
This will be charged hourly, with prices that could range from £50 to £100 per hour.
- Proactive Maintenance
Usually somewhere between £100 and £500 per month, depending on the complexity of your website or system.
- Proactive Plus, maintenance + additional work
This will depend entirely on what additional work you expect to need, so will probably be somewhere upwards of £500 per month.
- Total Support
This will often require staff to be available on call, so comes at a much higher cost. Expect quotes from £2,000 per month for extended hours, and £5,000 or more per month for 24/7 support.
How can I keep my website up to date?
A monthly or annual website maintenance package from your developers or digital agency will help you keep your web product up to date and secure.
We're firm believers that a web project doesn't end at launch day. If you're interested in having ongoing support and maintenance for your web app or website, read more about our web support services.
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Got a question or need some help with your next web project? Our creative team is here to help, and we’d love to hear from you.