How to Prepare Customers for Major Website Updates

How to Prepare Customers for Major Website Updates

Jun 21, 2021

Sometimes a major website update is required to roll out new features or designs or to upgrade the server environment and CMS to stay up to date on potential security vulnerabilities. Regardless of the reason, when an update is rolled out and it will take the website offline for any period of time it’s important that customers are prepared.

Remember, any time a website is down, the customers of that business will not be able to make purchases, find the information or resources they seek or access their accounts. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, e-commerce store, or a local service business – preparing customers for website updates is very important to maintain a strong relationship.

Preparing customers for downtime and website upgrades prevents backlash, upset customers, and potentially negative feedback and reviews online. It’s something that takes very little effort, yet has a major impact on keeping customers happy.

What Does a Major Website Update Entail?

There are several examples of website updates that can cause a site to be offline and inaccessible for a while. Let’s run down a few of the more common reasons for an update and what each one entails.

Backup Refresh: Sometimes a website error causes a problem, and it stems from installing a new plugin or script. If the website breaks it’s often best to install a backup from the previous day. This is often a much faster solution than trying to reverse engineer the root cause, getting a website back online very quickly.

This is why scheduling automated backups daily are so important. This way, if you must revert to a backup you will not lose a lot of progress in terms of new website content if any. A backup refresh can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to complete on average.

Server Migration: Upgrading the web hosting or migrating to a larger server is something that businesses do when their growth requires a more advanced and scalable hosting environment. Moving files over to a new server is a fault simple process for an experienced webmaster, and the downtime will correlate with the size of the website.

A fairly large service-based website could take thirty minutes to migrate, whereas a large e-commerce website with thousands of products might take a half-day. Setting time expectations with customers is important – a simple countdown timer that explains the migration needs and an estimated time of completion will be greatly appreciated and well-received.

Tech Stack Upgrades: Many websites use software and tools from third parties, and in the event they need to be updated it can cause the website to go offline, or some features of that website to be unavailable during the upgrade.

Website Redesign Launch: Anytime a website is redesigned it will require a little downtime to push the new updated design live. How long the site will be down will depend on how complex the overhaul is. It could be a few hours or a couple of days.

Each situation has a different timeframe as to how long the website will potentially be offline, but regardless of the length of time, it’s important to keep the customers updated and informed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10-minute upgrade or a 24-hour website overhaul – keeping your customers informed is the best approach.

How to Prepare Clients for Updates

There are many ways to effectively prepare clients for website updates, and the better prepared they are, the better they can inform their customers of the updates and the anticipated downtime. Here are some helpful tips to best prepare your clients for website updates.

1. Give them lots of notice.

The more notice you can provide, the better, as it gives them time to relay the information to their customers across their communication channels. This can include email, social media, and directly on their website.

While some things like a hack or vulnerability update won’t allow you the luxury of advance notice, things like website redesign launches and system upgrades can be planned with a window of time for plenty of advanced notice.

2. Create a well-designed splash page to pop up while the site is under maintenance.

Any time you have advance notice of an upcoming update it’s a good idea to create a splash page that informs website visitors when the website will be back to fully operational, as well as a reason for the site being down.

Seeing this, rather than a blank screen or receiving an error that the website is not reachable is a smart strategy. For example, if someone is attempting to reach the client’s website for the first time and experiences an error telling them that the website is unavailable it may cause them to assume the business is not operational any longer.

Provide a reason and explain why this inconvenience is in the best interest of the customer. If you are converting to a new website design, create a splash page that explains that a new and improved website is being rolled out and it’s being done to provide customers with a better user experience. This keeps the customers fully informed and gives them a reason to come back soon – to see the new design. Be sure to include an estimated date and time for the new website to be fully operational.

3. Make a plan for customer communication during site downtime.

During a website’s downtime, businesses must provide multiple communication channels for their customers. This can include email, social media, phone support, or SMS communication.

Including this on the splash page with direct links to each is a great way to keep the communication lines open during major website updates. Having a helpdesk solution is extremely beneficial here, as support tickets can still be submitted and answered even when the main website is down due to maintenance and upgrading.

4. Send reminder emails the day of (and the day before).

It’s important to remind businesses of upcoming website updates and downtime so they can relay the information to their customers. Since most of their communication will be through social media channels and email, it’s a good idea to give them advance notice as well as a reminder the day before and the day of the update.

A reminder to reach out to the business contact through email and a phone call is advised. While your main concern is to keep the business owner updated, reminding them in advance so they can keep their customers properly informed show them that you care about the success of their business.

Final Thoughts

Preparing customers for website updates keeps the communication channel open and helps them in turn keep their customers up to date with any potential downtime. Consumers understand that updates and maintenance are required and are very understanding as long as they are kept in the loop, and when possible, notified in advance.

Use the suggestions above to ensure that your clients are always prepared for upcoming website updates and downtime. Advance notification and reminders right before an update allow them to better serve their customers, and they will appreciate the extra effort to help them stay on top of their website maintenance, updates, and upgrades.

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