The jury is out on clients updating their own websites

I’ve had a couple clients recently want a website that they can update. Then they add the term “easily” that that sentence, and it really begins a dilemma for me. How do you release a website to its owner in a way that they can “easily” update it? 

Opening arguments

Clients hire web designers to create a website for their business. The client wants the ability to update the content of the website without having to pay a web designer to update it for them. I totally get not wanting to pay for something you think you can do yourself. And let’s face it, small businesses don’t have much extra cash to throw at web updates anyway, so updating the website themselves seems like a great way to save money.

First witness

In my experience, clients hire me because they lack the ability to build a website on their own or one of the online “build a website” tools just aren’t cutting it for them due to limitations. When they want a website to update on their own, but lack knowledge of HTML or technology in general, I utilize WordPress since it contains a built-in content management system that I find incredibly easy to use.

However, after trying to update their website once or twice, the client becomes overwhelmed and ends up paying me to do the updates anyway. Maybe its the plugins I installed, how to categorize posts, or maybe just changing the menu navigation, but there is something the client worked on for hours and still cannot get right.


As a tech-savvy individual, WordPress is easy for me. To the tech-clueless, it isn’t easy. How do I build a website that the client can update when something seemingly easy like WordPress is so difficult? Do I just forget WordPress, build the code like I normally would in TextWrangler, upload it via FTP, and set the client free to update anything they want?  …. Let me rephrase with that I am really thinking… Do I just build the code like I normally would, upload it via FTP, and set the client free to screw it up? Let’s face it, as web designers, this is one of our ongoing fears.

Do I ask the client to spend hundreds of dollars on software like Dreamweaver that comes with a design view to facilitate easier updating? But if the client is tech-clueless, Dreamweaver won’t be a walk in the park either.

I’ve tried writing a list of step-by-step instructions for the client to follow, complete with all the do’s and don’ts so things don’t go horribly wrong like deleting a <div> tag or something. I have found that they never look at that step-by-step list. I can say, “If you want to do A, then go to this URL and type this.” Never fails, it is simply too difficult. This is where patience begins to break down and teachable moments become frustrating.

For WordPress, I’ve tried physically doing a demo of how to update things and have the client take notes. I’ve only tried this once, but needless to say, it didn’t work either. The demo became information overload after just a few minutes.

Closing arguments

I have many “Maybe I should try this…” thoughts, but they always come back to this:
“I am your web designer. I am there when you need me. You just have to shell out a little dough periodically.”

And most clients forget about updating their website, so updates are few and far between anyway. This equates to only a few hours of updates every few months, at most. Not that much money really, so maybe small businesses can afford it?

I want to give clients what they want, but maybe I doing them a disservice by saying, “Yep, I can create a website you can update “easily.” Truth is, it won’t be easy for them. They will be overwhelmed. They might screw up the website. These are variables I have to consider.

So, for now, my jury is out on this one. In the meantime, I’ll be boldly honest with my clients by informing them that we “can” build a website they can update, but it’s not going to be “easy.”

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  1. Pingback: The jury is back in session on clients updating their own websites | The Big Webowski

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