This seems like a great idea doesn’t it? Even though you don’t pay a huge amount for your website hosting and support, your mate runs a little website setup and says he can host it for you for free. You save a little bit of money each month and so all is good. Well, soon the cracks begin to show and one of the most common challenges we see when talking to prospects is when they say to us they had a friend doing their website but now they don’t have the time or they cannot even get hold of them to make changes anymore.
The challenges you face…
Yes it may seem like a great idea to have a free website host, but ask yourself why you pay for services from other companies in the first place? It is mainly because they have a skillset that you do not and they are able to provide you with the services at a level of quality and reliability that you have decided is what you need. If you were a financial adviser you wouldn’t outsource your compliance to ‘a friend’ because there is a legal imperative that you get it right. Similarly would you take a lease on a property for your business offices on a handshake from a friend? It is unlikely that either you or they would settle for this informal arrangement for something so important.
Well we have news for you, your website is an important thing as well. It is the public face of your business and you shouldn’t take the same risk either just to save a few pennies as it will come back to haunt you. And here are a few reasons why;
No contract, no obligations…
The whole point of selecting a reliable supplier and contracting with them is that it establishes a working relationship and a set of expectations that both parties abide by. The supplier outlines what is included for the monthly payments and the customer understands what they can expect to receive and what they can ask for.
With a ‘mates rates’ or ‘free’ setup you do not have this. Their expectation is that they are actually doing you a ‘favour’ whilst what you are requiring from them is a professional service as if they were being paid. This immediately creates a disconnect which on day one probably doesn’t present but down the line when you do need changes will then potentially be an issue.
For example, will they be doing regular maintenance on your website and updates to plugins (which are critical if your site is to remain secure and not get hacked)? We know that most of our competitors don’t even do this very often and they are getting paid! And as you can expect at least a couple of times a year for plugin updates to cause conflicts that need to be resolved, is your friend going to willingly take the time to sort this out for you? In reality it is unlikely and the worst part of this is that you will have no idea there are technical issues with your website.
Out of site, out of mind…
You may think that the hard part is done when your website is designed and so after that your mate hosting it is a great arrangement because all he has to do is host it for you and job done. But that really isn’t the case and a website, like a car, needs to be regularly maintained if it is to continue to work well. This might be technical updates but it could also be keeping the site current within online legislation (such as cookie management) or monitoring search engine presence and tweaking content to help with this.
With a website hosted by a friend you will not get this proactive approach because, to be honest, they are doing you a favour and they are not getting paid to deliver the service. Therefore it is not front of mind for them. You are happy because you think they are doing it, they are happy because you are happy, and neither party is actually doing what needs to be done.
No service level…
So what about when it does come to needing updates or change to design and content? This is the moment it usually falls down. When you want changes made that actually require some time to undertake, or indeed some design skills that maybe they themselves don’t have because they are a ‘techy’ rather than a ‘creative’. The number one feedback we get from prospects coming to us having had a friend host their website is “we couldn’t ever get any changes done quickly”. This is the moment the brown stuff hits the spinny thing!
As the face of your business, if you need changes to your website you need to be sure they can be done promptly. And what if those changes are legal requirements? If you cannot get them done quickly you could be in real trouble.
In a relationship with a friend there are no service level agreements. You are relying on their ongoing good will to help you, which for them is just another ‘favour’ on top of the initial ‘favour’ whereas for you it is just a reasonable expectation of the person hosting your website.
You cannot hold them to account…
This is the point at which you really have a problem because without a formal arrangement and with your friendship being a key part of the arrangement you find yourself with no way to hold them to account. To do so risks a friendship and so you are left in a stalemate.
What you don’t want is a breakdown in your friendship because both parties have ended up in a place they never intended to be in.
Good intentions, bad outcomes…
A friend offering to host your website always starts with good intentions. The challenge to this always comes when you, quite reasonably, expect for some new work or changes to be made or a technical issue arises. You might think you have peace of mind because it is a friend but the reality is they have no actual professional driver to do the ‘day to day’ management of your website because they are doing you a favour and you do not have the formal relationship in place to be able to challenge that notion.
With a friend hosting your website you are not in a B2B or a B2C relationship. Both of these come with a natural expectation from one party to the other and a natural anxiety to deliver the service to a level that is expected. If this isn’t done then they can be held to account. But with a mates arrangement there is none of this and you are, from day one, owing them rather than them owing you (in a business relationship you pay them and they ‘owe you’ a service in return – this is the contract`).
Affordable is better than free
Much like we mentioned in our previous article about free websites, free always seems good on the surface but when it comes to it the reality is that you get what you pay for. If you aren’t paying anything then you aren’t going to get much in return and your friendship (which is your only source of value exchange) could be on borrowed time as well.
Our fees at Idio are affordable. At times our clients might question what they get in return but then you could ask the same about why you pay a monthly fee for your mobile phone – and yet we never trade in that contract for a pay as you go. But when our clients need changes we are there for them and the changes are done efficiently at at a high level of quality and that is when they are most pleased. Also, in the background we are constantly monitoring and maintaining their website, keeping it secure and technical sound. We do maintenance and updates every month and we resolve any issues immediately and that is part of our service level.
Simply moving your website to a friend so that you don’t have to pay anything, or indeed only pay a small amount, is only going to ensure that the service level you get reduces. If this is a route you are going to go down make sure that both you and they understand it is not them ‘doing you a favour’, it is them agreeing to take on the big responsibility of managing your website day to day and being there for you when you need changes, updates and technical assistance and that they are willing to do this is a timely fashion. If they aren’t going to do this and they aren’t willing to put an agreement in place, and you value your friendship with them, then really think long and hard before doing it.
At Idio, we aren’t just a supplier but we are your digital partner. What you get for our affordable monthly fee is peace of mind that even when you aren’t concentrating on your website we still are. We are there when you need us and we are there when you don’t as well – making sure your website is always a hard working and top quality asset for your business.