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The Best Practices for a Seamless Site Handover

Make satisfied customers and a hassle-free site handover staples of each of your projects. Even though the ownership transition is generally the last stage of the web design process, there are two reasons why you should start talking about it with clients as early on as possible.

First, having clear project expectations keeps a collaboration on track and prevents mistaken assumptions about the end product.

Second, making the site handover an open and ongoing conversation gives you plenty of opportunities to advertise your maintenance services, if you offer them. As you build trust and rapport with your client, you will probably notice the shift in how your pitch is received.

It’s time to make those two conditions a reality for your business. The best practices described below will help ensure the client handoff is a seamless moment. Plus, look for a pro tip in each section for even more actionable advice. This is the website handover checklist you can start using today for your own business.

01. Set mutual expectations for the site handover with your client

Define from the outset exactly what you mean by the term ‘site handover.’ Your client most likely will have little to no familiarity with the way website building works overall, not to mention the particulars of the handoff. So, as you’re reviewing the stages of your web design process in your initial client meeting, elaborate on what this stage entails.

It can be easier to open with what a site handover is not. It is not a fixed stopping point for the website, or an indication that the pages can run themselves ‘hands-free’ from then on. This can be a common misunderstanding on the client’s side when it comes to the world of web design.

Rather, a site handover is a transfer of responsibility: from the web designer or developer to the paying customer. There are still many ongoing tasks to tend to that are critical to the site’s functionality. So a site handover is about deciding with the client who will take charge of managing this list.

In a complete handover, the client will assume the full weight of continuous web monitoring and optimization. However, another possibility is that you will perform this maintenance. That is, the client will be the owner, but you will be contracted to conduct A/B testing, implement social campaigns, drive forward an SEO strategy, or whatever else you agree upon.

No matter which form of a handover you’re doing, use these two questions to set your client’s expectations for what happens at that stage:

1. What deliverable will your client receive? This answer goes beyond a ‘website.’ A specific answer will mention a unique domain name, the kind of Premium package you’re using to build their website, noted accompanying features, and any marketing integrations you plan to enable. And, of course, the date on which they can expect it all to be transferred to their Wix account. Just like any other shopping experience, consumers want to know from the get-go what they’re getting in exchange for their money. Don’t make them wait till the end to do the big reveal. Being upfront about the value you’re providing will position you as trustworthy, and prevent miscommunication between you and your client.

2. What work will you do after the site handover to refresh and update the website? As you describe the site handover, review the list of tasks that must be regularly completed to maintain good website health. This would also be the moment to present any services you offer that can support clients in meeting that standard. If your client is interested, decide together which actions you’re taking on. Even if you don’t offer additional maintenance, you might find running through this list is still a smart business move. It helps clients better understand the scope of your work, so they’re not holding you to expectations that are beyond your job description. Be sure to cover these five key topics:

  • Technical support. If you regularly use Wix to build websites for your clients, you’re probably pretty familiar with its platform by now. While Wix offers customer support, you can also take advantage of your extensive knowledge of its ‘ins and outs’ to offer customer assistance. Clients tend to see the value in a support agent with the most in-depth understanding of their website around.

  • Minor updates. As the client gets to know their website in the months following the handover, they might discover there some elements they would like to change after second thought, or adjust to match a new company initiative. Clarify both your availability to work on these kinds of changes, and what you consider to be within the scope of this category. If you are open to being contacted for these alterations after a handoff, it’s worth explaining the difference between a major and minor revision to your client. There are certain fixes that require minimal time and come at a lower price point. Then there are those requests which you can immediately tell will mean a full design or structural overhaul. From your client’s perspective, it can be difficult to tell just how much work is needed to execute their new idea. Offer up some examples of each kind of revision, so they know the fee to expect and whether their proposal will be classified as a ‘follow up’ or a new project of its own.

  • Site optimization. This area makes it clear why a handover is in no way code for a website going stagnant. There is always room for tweaking and improving, based on careful analysis of web visitor behavior from a variety of marketing integrations. The data is there, and rich with insights for new directions - it just takes someone with the time and understanding to interpret what they’re seeing and translate it into a site edit. Because many clients might not have the time or expertise to fulfill this role, you have a compelling case for presenting your capabilities. Perhaps it’s a weekly report on new traffic. Or utilizing heat maps to inform a periodic A/B test. And even if you don’t offer site optimization services, at least brief your client on the necessity of these adjustments for the healthy functioning of their site.

  • Marketing services. Once a client has a brand new website, the next step is making it work for them. It could be generating new leads, selling products, building a community, or whatever else the identified business goal may be. A weekly blog post, monthly email newsletter, or a sales campaign on social channels are all means to that objective. Illustrate for your client how their website fits into a larger marketing initiative, and, if relevant, how you are uniquely poised to make that connection.

  • Business consultancy. This angle is suitable if you or a team member has sales and advertising experience. New businesses in particular might be looking for guidance in how to link their online, social media, and email marketing efforts.

Using the two questions above, you can determine what web maintenance needs to be done and who will do it. Now, the remaining decisions you have to make revolve around the logistics of the handoff.

First up is finalizing the steps leading up to the handover. This will look a little different for each web professional, depending on how you structure your payments. The important thing is that you do have an outlined process, and that you share it with your customers. For example, if you charge 50% upfront and 50% before publishing, here is one common timeline:

  1. Share the link to preview the live site. In your message, enclose a final approval form to be signed by your client after viewing your finished work.

  2. Receive the signed approval form back from the client.

  3. Send the client an invoice.

  4. Receive the payment.

  5. Publish the site, and transfer ownership to their account.

At the end of this conversation, formalize everything you talked about (the specifics of your deliverable, site maintenance responsibilities, and the timeline for payment and handover) into your signed contract. Having a document on hand to refer back to further down the line is helpful for preventing scope creep, and staying on track with project goals.

Pro tip: Clients might not grasp just yet how extensive an effort it can be to manage a website. Even if they decline your services during your initial project meeting, it doesn’t mean the conversation is over. You can revisit the option at later stages of the web design process (e.g. during the handover itself).

02. Maintain login ownership until the end

The culinary world can’t claim the phrase ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ entirely for their own. When it comes to web design, the same principle applies. If both you and your client have full access to the website in the midst of the creation stages, you can only imagine how quickly things can get messy.

Instead, use your own email address and Wix account to create the website. You won’t want to miss any important emails from Wix that arrive to that inbox, or place the burden of forwarding every incoming mail on your client.

When you design through your own account, it gives you full control during the creation stages. There’s no fear that stakeholders from the client side might unexpectedly edit your work or accidentally change something before you were finished building an element.

It’s also a smart business measure. You hold the site ownership and login permission in your hands, a major incentive for collecting a client’s final payment. We can’t emphasize it enough times: Never transfer ownership until you have received that last installment.

The transfer itself is super straightforward on Wix. Take screenshots of your work for your portfolio (before a client enters and makes any changes), and then transfer ownership into your client’s account. If a client eventually contracts you for a future project on the same website, they can easily make you a site contributor to re-grant you access.

You can also recommend that the client makes a duplicate version of the site in their own account. One can be an unpublished site that acts as their own personal ‘sandbox’ to experiment with as they grow more accustomed to the Wix platform. The other remains an untouched published site.

Pro tip: We strongly suggest never publishing a website too close to a weekend. As much testing and checking as we do beforehand, life sometimes chooses to throw curveballs our way in the form of a bug, design inconsistency that somehow escaped our attention, or a service interruption in the domain email connected to the site.

In the event this happens, you don’t want to find yourself in the position of hassling your client or team members on the weekend, or dedicating your own Saturday to investigating the source of the problem. Mid-week is generally the safest bet for going live. That way you’ll also have left enough time for the site to propagate (generally takes up to 48 hours) and for your chosen meta tags to update after the site is indexed.

03. Organize a website 101 crash course for your client

Immediately after the website is completed and published, schedule a meeting with your client to teach them how to use their new business tool. In-person meetings are generally preferable, although any format that lets you chat as you share your screen works, too.

Kick things off by restating the project summary and objective. When you frame your presentation using their own business strategy and expressed goals for growth, it’s evident how seriously you took the job at hand. It’s also a chance to speak in a language they’re familiar with before launching into the more technical fine points of website monitoring and optimization. Opening like this helps clients feel more at home in the meeting.

Proceed to walk through all notable website features, CRM (customer relations management) capabilities, and marketing integrations. This moment is yet another gateway for upselling. Your client might not have grasped the additional workload required for maximally effective web maintenance until this training.

Pro tip: There’s no need to create a presentation from scratch for each handoff meeting. You can find plenty of ready-made educational resources available to adapt and use in the Tools and Guides available to Wix Partners. For example, the ‘Wix Site Handover Kit’ was made exactly for a moment like this one.

04. Prepare a thorough offboarding packet

On top of holding a training session, leave your client with a training manual. It’s yet another way to set them up for success on their new website and leave them impressed by your professionalism and thoughtfulness. A guide should include the following:

  • Login credentials to their Wix account (if you created one for them).

  • A style guide with records of the fonts, colors, and other branding visuals you’ve selected.

  • Assets and icon files used.

  • Relevant instructions and tutorials. Take the time to include guides that are tailored to their specific website’s function (e.g. for a blog-oriented site, it’s important to detail how to share a blog post directly to social media, send it out via an email blast, and how to optimize the post for SEO).

  • FAQs. After a few rounds of web design projects, you will probably notice patterns in the most common questions coming your way.

  • A list of your additional marketing and maintenance services.

Pro tip: Take a screen recording during your training session, and send it along with this packet so clients can literally follow along from home.

05. Stay in touch and upsell

The launch button doesn’t immediately turn a website into some museum fossil. There’s still plenty of work to do to keep its pages fresh with content and optimized for performance and search engines.

Clients might find out pretty quickly all those tweaks and content updates are adding up to more hours than they originally accounted for. Even if they previously declined your supplementary web maintenance services, you might suddenly find yourself with a more receptive audience.

Get your name back on their radar by following up with each of your clients on a regular schedule. The idea is reappearing in a client’s inbox at just the moment when it’s starting to dawn on them that they could use some extra support.

Start immediately after project completion with a thank you email that includes a short reminder about the range of your business offerings. Then, set calendar reminders for yourself for three months, six months, and one year out. At each of those dates, check back in with your client to ask how they are enjoying their website.

This will also serve as a gentle reminder that you are there should they have any questions, want to schedule a refresher training, or are seeking advice to take full advantage of their site’s functionality. Another natural time to drop a quick email ‘hello’ is on major holidays.

Pro tip: When a client does reach out, slipping back into your old collaborative relationship becomes even easier if you’ve kept careful records of content files, contracts and invoices, revision documentation, and email communication throughout your first round of working together.

Use your archive to brush up on the original project and remind yourself of the client’s preferences and working style. Not only do you get to show off your ‘detailed memory,’ but you’ll save time and impress your client when you reconnect a year later.

We want to hear from you! What are the pro tips you use to manage your site handover process?

By Joanna Kramer

Editor, Wix Partners Blog

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