Technical Support vs Designer. Who should be providing Site Care?
Designers tend to be creative, at least the best ones are, and typically are considered to be artistic and “right brain” thinkers.
IT specialists and technical support practisioners tend to be “left brain” thinkers and more aligned to mathematics and systematic logical thought.
While the left / right brain theory has now been debunked the underlying strengths and weaknesses of each profession – design vs technical support – holds true. Typically the attributes of a good designer are different to a good support technician.
If this is the case, why do so many businesses entrust the support of their site to a designer?
It also follows that a designer may not have security and function at the forefront when designing your site. Conversely it holds true that a good technical support technician is probably not the right person to give you an award winning web site design.
The arguments above can be mitigated by using a firm with multiple disciplines – design and support – but this also puts you into the sales loop where every 12 months you are pushed to upgrade to a new design and, as your site is actively in their hands, it is hard work to fend them off. While this may seem innocuous it tends to roll into marketing redesign, SEO changes, and support updates greatly inflating the costs. Once a designer has you in-house then regular redesigns are low hanging fruit that flows into support and marketing and therefore revenue – for them.
A sum of parts
We believe there a 3 distinct parts to a successful web site:
- The hosting platform,
- the site design, and
- the ongoing security and updates including regular backups.
The hosting platform includes the hosting type (shared, VPS, dedicated), the level of security of the server itself based on the operating system and associated plugins and extensions, physical server attributes such as memory, processors, and hard drive space, and the connection speed and throughput between the server and the internet backbone. Many individual components come into play such as security policy, firewall, SSL / TLS version, colocated services such as email, ftp, SSH, Telnet, database, etc. Managing servers is a specialist role with multiple disciplines and should not be disregarded or entrusted to an unknown entity. Do you know who is looking after your server?
The site design includes the aesthetic appeal and functional features such as shopping cart, booking engine, forms etc. In the case of WordPress this is themes and plugins as well as graphical design and optimisation.
Technical support includes updates to themes, plugins, and WordPress core, regular backups, uptime monitoring, minor tweaks, page speed optimisation (cache, CDN, code optimisation), regular security scans, and restoration / repair for when hacks or code clashes occur.
There is another layer of function not included above that may be provided by designer, technical support, or standalone specialists – search engine optimisation and search engine marketing.
Bricks and Mortar Analogy
So where are we going with all of this? It may be helpful if we use an analogy to help understand the various functions. If we compare an online store with a conventional bricks and mortar store we see the following:
- Bricks and mortar lease equates to online hosting and server platform. The lease is usually based on the exposure of the location to potential customers, the size of the store, and desirable features such as accessibility and parking. Hosting is based on the hard drive space, performance (memory and processor), and connectivity. With bricks and mortar there is an expectation that the facility is sound and well maintained and that any defects are remedied as a priority. This also applies to the server operating system and associated services.
- Bricks and mortar shop fittings equate to web site design. Essentially the external sign writing, shop front, interior fit-out, and product displays are the aesthetics of the store and closely relate to the web site design.
- Bricks and mortar utilities including electrical, security, Information Technology (IT), are closely related to the online technical support role. The function of the systems such as the lighting and audio visual displays, cash registers, inventory management, and security monitoring systems are reliant on the underlying utilities.
With a bricks and mortar store there are distinct functions and responsibilities relating to the 3 areas identified. The IT support technician would not design the shop front or the audio visual displays but he would keep the displays, cash registers, inventory management and off site communication functioning. The shop fitter would not be involved in IT or negotiate with the center manager for parking, cleaning, roof repairs, security, signage, or operating hours but he would be engaged for new designs as required.
So if we are happy to delegate tasks to the appropriate contractor / provider with bricks and mortar, why do we then expect our web designer to look after servers, security, WordPress core, theme and plugin updates, offsite backups, uptime monitoring, and online reputation?
Savvy bricks and mortar business owners rely on dedicated trades and professions to ensure their business operates efficiently with minimum disruptions so that marketing efforts are not wasted and results are measurable and repeatable. The same applies to online. Find resources that are dedicated to their function, are the best at what they do, are focused on your interests and not just their own bottom line, and manage them accordingly.
About: ManageWP® Australia provide WordPress Site Care and Server Management to site owners and designers. We also provide secure hosting and relocation services if required. We do not design web sites although we are happy to make changes to existing designs where appropriate. We will NEVER approach you to redesign your site as our focus is security (server and site), recover-ability, monitoring, and restoration. Please contact us if you would like an assessment of your current server or site security or need some assistance or advice with your site.