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how much access should a client have to their site?

This is a question that’s likely to divide opinion amongst web development agencies and their clients.  Advancements in web technology have resulted in more demand from clients for in-house control of their websites. The battle for power now plays an important role in any web development project.

At Uprise, we are happy to give our clients as much or as little access as they want. We appreciate how beneficial it can be for them to be able to edit and update simple things on their website and it’s something that we always discuss upfront with our clients at the briefing stage. This ensures that we understand exactly what areas of the website they want to be able to update themselves. However, there are certain downsides to clients having too much access to their website, but more about that later.

BC – before content management systems

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There was a time when free open source content management systems (CMS) like WordPress and Joomla weren’t available to web developers. This meant that all websites were hard coded, which made it extremely difficult for clients to make changes to their site by themselves. They would have to pay their developer to build the functionality into the site for this to be possible. This obviously benefited the company or individual developing the website, since they could charge for any changes that needed to be made, but it obviously meant more costs for a client.

While this was more of an issue in the past, we still come across clients whose website was developed as recently as five or six years ago that still don’t have the ability to edit simple things like content or images. They all share the same story of requesting changes from the freelancer or agency who developed the site and waiting weeks for even simple changes to be made. In some instances, the developer can no longer be contacted, due to moving on or ceasing to trade. This inevitably leaves the client feeling extremely frustrated and determined that their next website will provide them with all the access and flexibility they require.

Flexibility and control – do you really want it?

When it comes down to it, most clients simply don’t have the time to edit their websites, but they feel happier knowing that they could if they needed to. We provide our clients with full training on how to use their CMS but, more often than not, usually make the changes ourselves in the allocated time from their monthly support agreements. Having said that, some clients are more comfortable using technology and find the functionality and flexibility provided by a CMS extremely helpful.

While a lot of clients just want the ability to update content, edit some images and upload new blog articles, others want complete control. For example, we recently developed a website for a company who trade in four different countries. The client wanted their administrators in each of the countries to not only be able to edit existing pages but also add new pages by selecting from a range of different page designs, depending on how many sections the new page required. To do this, our web development team created templates for each page style in four different CMS, so that each country could manage their own multi-site. We also had to restrict certain areas of the website so that only the UK marketing team could make changes to them.

Be careful what you wish for

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The majority of CMS can provide clients with greater flexibility and control of their own websites, but there are some downsides to providing clients with too much access to their websites. When you invest in a professionally designed and developed website, you are paying for specialist graphic design, web design and web development skills. This should provide you with a visually attractive, easy to navigate and vigorously tested site that’s free from technical errors. When a client who doesn’t possess the necessary design or technical skills starts tinkering with a website, it can quickly go from being a great showcase of their brand to potentially damaging.

For instance, a website that utilises strong imagery and well-written copy in the main slider or hero image, creates a great first impression to anyone visiting the site. Changing these images is not as straightforward as one might imagine. They usually take a designer a lot of time and care, from tireless retouching in Photoshop and the precise art of resizing to the correct dimensions and resolution, to finding the best position for the text in the correct font. The devil is in the detail, and by inserting an image that doesn’t fit with the overall look and feel of a website, you risk giving your visitors a poor impression of you. After all, it only takes a few seconds for a visitor to make a decision about a website and if there are errors or anything that’s not in keeping with your brand identity, that visitor is likely to click on the X in the top right of the screen or press the back button and visit the next option down in the search results.

From a purely selfish point of view, web design and development agencies always like to showcase the work they have done in order to acquire new business. However, if the beautifully designed website they launched has now been tarnished to such an extent that it’s not something they’d want to associate themselves with, it will quickly be pulled from their portfolio, which is a real shame.

Move away from the back-end!

From a technical point of view, unless there is somebody within a client’s company that knows how to handle code, we would seriously recommend staying well away from the back-end of the website. Some clients will adamantly insist that they have access to the code within the back-end of their website, only to go in and break it. This means that the web development team will have to spend a lot of time re-building what was a perfectly functioning website, costing the client unnecessary time and money.

It’s all good

The amount of technology available to web design agencies these days means that they can provide their clients with exactly what they want: access to and control of their own websites. Some will make the most of it and others will continue to rely on their web design and development agency to keep it updated. Either method is fine by us and we’re happy to provide our clients with whatever help they need.

It’s essential that you find a web design and development partner that you trust. You can work with them to agree the level of access required for editing and updating your website but, without the right skills, you may be setting yourself up for issues. So it’s probably best to leave it to the professionals! Taking advantage of specialist web design and development skills means that your website will do your business justice for many years to come, not just on its go-live date!

If you’re considering a new web design or web development project, then why not drop us a line?

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