The next couple posts originate in meetings and conversations I’ve had over the past couple weeks…
As a website designer & developer, I always want to exceed the expectations of my clients. The reality is, like changing your favorite dress shop or hair style as your tastes change, sometimes it’s time for a client to make a switch.
We each bring our own perspectives to our side of a website project. Sometimes it’s just time for a new perspective.
Chatting with folks making a switch from cookie cutter website creation tools like GoDaddy’s web development tools, Wix or Square Space to folks looking to switch web firms, sometimes it’ not quite as easy as you’d like.
Sometimes it is what it is and comes down to defining or understanding the exit strategy up front. From the start, knowing how you leave. Put another way, it’s about understanding the nature of your relationship – what you get, what you own. What happens if you want to change “dress shops”… err web firms?
While there’s no magic and a website isn’t rocket science, something you don’t understand can be confusing at best. At some point something in your organization is going to change – ownership, leadership, relationships, perspective, technology… doesn’t matter what. Asking some questions upfront gives you the tools to make a decision and to understand the implications, to have an exit strategy.
What do you mean?
Let’s talk about a couple situations you may find yourself in and what changing “dress shops” looks like.
If you’re using one of the cookie cutter tools, to move on you take nothing with you. Well, that’s not entirely true. You do take the content you’ve created and added to their templates. What I mean is that you’ve got some documents (maybe screen prints) of your content. That’s it. But basically it’s a redesign.
What some clients don’t understand is that you may take nothing with you if you’re switching gears from one web firm to another, depending on how your contract is written or how they work. Especially if your web firm uses a proprietary system. Not because they are trying to hold you hostage. On the contrary, usually they’re trying to provide fantastic customer service. In the case of a proprietary system, it’s usually because they are the only keeper of that system.
What can you do?
In the case of using a cookie cutter tool and moving to a more sophisticated system, there’s nothing you can do. It is what it is. I guess the key is to understand. This is where many organizations start. They are good at what they do – a basic cookie cutter website. Your exit strategy is basically a do-over.
In the case of working with a firm using a proprietary system, it may be the same thing. As the Sym’s commercial used to profess… An Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer. As long as you understand from the start, it is what it is. Someone will be maintaining your website, tying yourself to a proprietary system means that your choices are limited as to who that will be. It’s only an issue if you’re unhappy, want to make a change, possibly do something yourself or they stop supporting it. When you go, you take the work product (paperwork, emails, etc) of the design process and usually little else. Your exit strategy is basically a do-over.
The case that provides choice is starting the process with a web firm or freelancer without a proprietary system. The key is to have an exit strategy from the start – or understand the exit process. It doesn’t mean you’ll use it, but you can if you need to. That you understand if you’re tied to a firm and why. For a non-proprietary content management system (CMS), make sure you own the files and database that make up your website. Make sure it’s written into whatever document that defines your arrangement. While you’ll have to pay a fee for someone to provide you with backup files (simply for their time) you’ll have something to start – or continue – with. Here your exit strategy may be a do-over, it may also be a continue on – for now. The choice is yours.
Most web firm will have this discussion with you. They want you to understand the implications of your relationship. They want a great relationship, a happy client and a happy team.
From my perspective, there are reasons for making each choice. The key is that you or your group understand what you are committing to and that your choice matches the vision of your organization.
Next time, we’ll talk about some under the hood logistics of your website. To let you ask the questions to create that exit strategy, understand your website and work better with your web firm.