Before entering into a lengthy contract and/or getting your digital assets locked into a website developer/host's hands, it's important to know what you're getting yourself into. All too often, I've talked to business owners that cannot easily update their website (if at all!), their website gets hacked all the time, or their host/developer is seldom available — and when they are available they are either impatient or do not follow even basic instructions when you ask them to do something. There's a myriad of problems that can come up from having a website developer that is not holding up their end of the bargain.
The truth is, many website developers want you locked into their technology and maintenance contract so that they can make a recurring revenue from you, all while making it as hard as possible for you to switch to anyone else. They often have lengthy contracts to further compound the difficulty of switching. Having a contract with a set term isn't inherently bad. Nor is charging a monthly fee. But, web developers often do not hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to providing services that align with the amount of money they are charging you each month.
I have come up with a basic set of questions to ask your current or prospective web developer:
- Does your host or website developer make regular improvements and bug fixes to your site?
- Does your host or website developer perform automatic, weekly, or monthly security audits and fixes?
- Does your website developer provide phone and email support?
- If yes to #3, are they almost always friendly, patient, helpful, and prompt in resolving your issues?
- Can you make an update to your website's content without getting help from your website developer?
Is it worth it to switch?
If you answered 'no' to 3 or more of the above questions, you may benefit from switching providers. Answer the following 2 questions to be sure.
- Are you happy with your website and it's host/developer as it is?
- Are you willing to learn new technology if it will make updating your website easier?
If you said yes to #1, there's no need to switch. Sometimes having a great relationship with your developer can be more important than analyzing whether or not they are crossing their t's and dotting their i's.
If you said yes to #2, it might be a good idea to switch. If, however, it is easier for you to work with what you already have, switching providers may not be for you. If you struggle to learn new/unfamiliar technology, it can often be more taxing for you to switch to new technology than sticking with the tried-and-true. I have often heard of web developers selling a brand new design/system that will supposedly improve the old clunky system dramatically. The problem is, however, if everyone is accustomed to the old clunky system and finds that it's "good enough," switching to a new and better design can mean massive frustration for everyone involved.