Thinking of Switching Website Developers? Here are 5 Things to Do First
July 7, 2022
Communications directors and other leaders responsible for managing a church website often find themselves in a precarious situation, wondering if their current website designer, developer, vendor, or agency is still a good fit for their organization.
It’s a fair question to consider. As your church grows, your website needs will grow. If the community you serve experiences changes, how you communicate using your website will change. Sometimes, a church website may start small and outgrow its current solution. Other times, churches want to be more intentional with digital outreach and have ideas that outpace their current website support.
These are only a few examples that might predicate a need for change. Others may include budgetary concerns, differences in philosophy, personality conflicts, or poor project management and attention to detail.
Whatever the case, it is a good best practice to regularly evaluate your website—including the person or people who design, build and maintain it—to ensure that the entire process still meets your needs. This post outlines how to do that and the next steps you can take if or when you decide it’s time to change website design, development, and management.
Evaluate Your Current (People) Resources
When communications professionals begin a website evaluation, they usually look at things like the navigational structure, content quality, branding, or user experience and interface design (UX/UI). This is a great place to start, as these two elements can greatly impact your website’s success (or failure) in meeting your needs. However, it is equally important to evaluate the skills and abilities of the people tasked with designing, developing, and maintaining your website.
This is not to say that the team you have in place is doing a poor job; it may simply mean that your needs have grown beyond your current team’s capacity. It’s better to set your team up for success by regularly monitoring and reviewing performance metrics than to avoid it and end up with a problem.
When evaluating your people resources, consider things like
- Does our vendor/agency or in-house team have the skill-sets needed for new initiatives and growth?
- Could you outsource specific technical requirements while maintaining your current agency or team structure?
- Do you have room in your budget to make changes, or can you rearrange/realign priorities to accommodate your more technical needs?
- Are there other internal resources (staff or volunteers) you could equip and empower in new ways to achieve more?
These questions can take time and careful consideration, which is why it is a good practice to do this regularly—typically, annually will be a good rotation and structure.
Identify and Promptly Address Areas of Concern
After a thorough evaluation is complete, it is important to address any areas of concern promptly. Don’t take the “wait and see” approach. The longer you put off making changes, the more difficult it will be to accomplish.
For example, if you know you want to increase the usability of your church event calendar and your current team doesn’t have the capacity or skill-set to build the desired product, begin searching for an alternative right away. You could hire a freelancer, speak with other reputable website development agencies, or write an RFP.
If you conclude that it is time for a complete overhaul, here are the steps to take to ensure a smooth transition from one website team or vendor to the next.
- Check your contract. If you are working with an agency, you’re likely under some sort of contract or service-level-agreement. Review the terms and consider the timing of your exit strategy. This is particularly important relative to any monthly fees you may be paying an agency.
- Check your hosting and domain name registration. If you don’t know how or where your website is hosted, or where your domain is registered, you’ll want to make sure to do that before having any conversations about changes. Your current website developer or vendor may be hosting the site for you or at least managing your hosting. They may also have purchased your domain name on your behalf. These logistical details may be rolled into any monthly retainers you have in place. Have all that information at the ready and be prepared to make that transition.
- Decide how deep you want to cut. This is the hardest part. If your website is not built on an open-source content management system (CMS) like WordPress, you’re likely looking at a ground-up redesign which is costly and time-consuming. This is why we always recommend building websites with WordPress. The functionality is solid and can easily “come with you” if you decide to change developers, vendors, etc. For more on this subject, check out 10 Questions to Help You Hire a Dedicated WordPress Developer.
- Secure the assets. Whoever is currently in charge of your website is likely already doing this, but make sure that you have access to this information in the unlikely event things go south. If your current website solution is built on a closed platform, you will need an experienced developer to ensure that the website content transfers (if even possible) accurately. Also, be sure that you secure all graphic design assets (in editable formats) and any code, database structure, and other pertinent data necessary to migrate your site to a new platform.
- Change passwords and permissions. Surely this will never be a problem, but it is a best practice to do a thorough sweep of user access and permissions when making a significant change such as this.
Those are the “big five” (if you will) of how to change website vendors. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. We understand that making a change like this is significant and will require a level of candor, tact, and technical prowess to navigate successfully.
If you find yourself in need of a change but need a team to guide you through it, we are here to help. Website development is a mission-critical component of your church’s ministry. Don’t let it languish because you’re unsure how to make the right changes. Please contact us and let us know how we can help you make a change that better positions your ministry to reach your goals.