If you’re in the market for website maintenance plans, you’ll quickly notice that no two providers or plans are the same. The variety of services and quality can vary dramatically between options. What's more, each maintenance provider will approach your situation differently, based on their own unique processes and workflows.
Understandably, this variability impacts the end results your maintenance plan delivers. So how do you find the right website support and maintenance plan for you? Here are 10 key features to look for:
1. Number of Service Hours
Begin your search with an understanding of the number of service hours you’ll need so that you can ensure your maintenance provider can accommodate you. Every company is unique. Some have websites that are starting from scratch, requiring significant upfront optimisation.
Other sites are well-established on sound UX and security foundations but require ongoing maintenance as web standards change. That's why Sitback offers multiple support and optimisation plans with as few as eight service hours per month up to 60+ hours per month.
Further, make sure your plan allows you to roll over hours. If you don't use your hours one month, save them for the next in order to maximise your maintenance budget.
2. Specific Services Offered
Carefully compare not only the price of different maintenance plans, but the overall services offered as well. Some firms may offer bare-bones service, while others provide comprehensive plans to optimise, monitor, and maintain your site effectively.
A few key services to look for include:
- A dedicated account manager, who can learn about your needs and provide a consistent point of contact
- A ticket tracking system, which allows you to see progress and hold your provider accountable
- Quarterly optimisation performance reporting, so that you can see how you’ve improved and what areas still need attention
- Quarterly road-mapping workshops, to help you prioritise reactive and proactive work
- Penetration tests, which ensure bad actors are unable to exploit your website
- Malware scans, to identify problems introduced by historic security compromises or shared hosting environments
Look not just for the specific services being offered, but for different payment options as well. Being able to pay for your plan on a monthly or annual basis gives you much-needed budget flexibility.
3. CMS or Platform Expertise
Look specifically for website maintenance companies with experience in your particular content management system (CMS), as each platform is unique in terms of security, design, and site performance.
Sitback, for example, offers expertise in the following platforms:
Your website maintenance firm shouldn’t be learning on the job with your site. Opting for a company that can offer expert insight into your platform ensures stronger overall performance in numerous aspects:
- Site Migration: Taking advantage of new functions and features while safely performing a CMS migration requires deep knowledge of the platform.
- User Flows: Page layout testing processes and form optimisation best practices can differ by CMS.
- Site Speed: Your team should understand how to refactor code within your specific platform to increase performance and speed for your website.
- Analytics: Proper installation and integration of analytics code on your site will ensure accurate performance measurement from the beginning.
Every CMS is, essentially, its own ecosystem, built on a diverse system of code. The right team will know exactly how to make the right code-level changes for your CMS.
4. The Team Working on Your Account
The core team implementing support and maintenance on your site will impact its ability to function quickly, securely, and in support of your performance goals.
In terms of evaluating your maintenance team, first, consider the size. How many team members are available to help with pressing tasks or maintenance requirements?
Secondly, what is the team's skill level and diversity of skills? At Sitback, we provide clients with a single point of contact to streamline communications. However, tasks are distributed among our Australian team according to their skillsets, which may include:
- Software engineers
- Project managers
- Digital strategists
- UX researchers
- UI designers
Consider cross-training here as well. Developers should be able to code with UX in mind, while UI designers should understand how to achieve a proper aesthetic with fewer behind-the-scenes resources that can decrease site speed.
5. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Nothing should be left open to interpretation when it comes to your support and optimisation engagement. If you want to be able to have confidence that your budget will be spent efficiently, you need to hire a company with strict SLA standards that define the rights and responsibilities of all parties.
Ultimately, having a proper SLA in place prevents surprises. Under this type of framework, every dollar of your support and maintenance investment will be applied according to a specific framework — completely trackable with transparent work-in-progress (WIP) communications.
6. Communication Management
On the subject of communication, your website maintenance provider should offer multiple channels of communication, as well as clear and consistent standards for using each.
For instance, a robust issue tracking system makes it easy to understand how many support tickets you have outstanding, while time-to-completion estimates allow you to plan your website priorities and complementary business events.
Having a single point of contact can be helpful here as well, as this prevents information overload while still ensuring your priorities and questions are handled by the appropriate team member.
7. Hours of Support Coverage
Problems with your website can occur at any moment — not just during convenient business hours. That's why it is crucial to have a maintenance plan that includes around-the-clock support.
Using a maintenance partner with 24/7 support will give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your business-critical website will receive the fast attention it deserves.
8. Work In Progress (WIP) Cadence
Optimising a website almost always involves multiple ongoing tasks and moving parts. Strategic planning is vital to ensuring that these tasks are performed within the right time frames to avoid delays (or worse, downtime).
Support and maintenance plans should feature monthly planning sessions resulting in the clear definition and prioritisation of each task, based on the total website maintenance cost allocated to the project. Work in Progress meetings (WIPs) should be offered to keep your team updated on what’s been accomplished and what remains in the pipeline.
9. Release Process
Integrating updates and new versions into a site can present security or functionality issues if your team isn’t careful. So how does your support and maintenance partner ensure that their changes don’t inadvertently disrupt your website?
A comprehensive release process with secure site backups is essential here, allowing for the quick correction of any unforeseen bugs — even preventing them in the first place.
Finally, as proper reporting can help you deliver insights to key stakeholders in your company, it’s important to understand what you’ll have access to from the start. As an example, some of the reporting offered by Sitback includes:
- Monthly task tracking
- Quarterly platform reporting
- Quarterly performance optimisation reporting
If you don’t have access to these types of reports — or if you've found it difficult overall to find the right website maintenance plan in the past — connect with the Sitback team for more information. You can also explore our case studies for more about the results we've achieved for past clients.