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How to Successfully Hand Off a Website to Your Client

Updated on July 6, 2021

10 Min Read
Handover Website to client

Agencies often find themselves performing complex technical work on behalf of non-technical clients. This is one of the primary reasons why agencies find it difficult to wrap up and hand off a website (project) to their clients.

In this article, I will offer a helping hand and share an efficient step-by-step website handover process.

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Why Is It so Important to Get the Hand Off a Website Right?

The handover process is one of the most important phases of any project. And websites are no exception.

Check out some of the key reasons why it’s critically important to hand Off a website/project right:

Impress your client

If you own a digital agency, you know that clear communication is important throughout the website development process, from the beginning until the delivery of the website. Despite whatever communication might have occurred between you and your client during your collaboration, it’s often the tail end of your web project that will leave the strongest impression.

This is why you’ve got to pull out all the stops to make a positive final impression when handing the website over to your client. If you falter, you run the risk of alienating your client and undoing a lot of your hard work.

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Avoid future headaches

An effective website handover process will help you share technical and practical information with your client in a clear way. This way, you can facilitate your client to feel at ease, of course, but it can also dramatically reduce the potential for future headaches. Share the right information and you’ll be able to say goodbye to unproductive phone calls with repetitive questions.

Manage your (and Your Team’s) Time Properly

A well-organized website handover process will be smooth and efficient. With your customers satisfied and all of their questions answered, you can move onto the next project feeling confident.

If your website handover process is messy, it will become much longer and complicated than it really needs to be. You’ll find yourself frustrated, bogged down in endless conversations, and you’ll negatively impact your client relationship.

Consider using time tracking tools like Time Doctor, TMetric, or Clockify to improve time allocation and management.

Pitfalls of Handing Over a Website to a Client

As mentioned earlier, digital agencies tend to fall into the same old traps when it comes to handing over the websites to their clients.

Why not break the cycle? Check out the three of the most common pitfalls you’ll need to look out for:

Failing to Share an Offboarding Packet

Many digital web agencies fail to packet critical information together. This can cause confusion and generate resentment for the agency’s client.

At the end of the project, it’s critical that you adopt a constructive approach to sharing knowledge and information.

You should create a comprehensive offboarding packet that includes:

  • Certificates
  • Step-by-step guides
  • Acronyms and explanations
  • Technical data
  • Contact information
  • FAQs

Granting Ownership and Login Permissions Too Soon

One of the critical traps that digital agencies find themselves in is handing over their work too early. And they can suffer heavily for it.

It is because, in most cases, the clients will begin to poke around and explore the new website. This can become problematic – for the agency – if they (clients) start making changes or adjustments. Such unwanted interruptions can derail your progress on the project/website.

In some cases, granting website ownership too early to the client can make it difficult for digital agencies to collect payment for their work. To be extra cautious, some agencies choose to retain control over the website until the invoice for their work is processed.

Choosing Complex Web Hosting

Customers who commission a website will often leave the technical choices in the hands of the website development agency. It’s an important responsibility and you owe it to your client to make the right decisions on their behalf.

Being a digital agency of repute, you won’t like to hand Off a website to one of your non-technical clients and leave them wanting for more with regards to server management, website updates, and website security – that is wholly technical stuff. Instead, a better option is to choose a managed hosting solution like Cloudways that takes care of all the technical hassles so you can focus on what you do best. You can even pitch your client a Cloudways reseller hosting package which will leave them devoid of hosting troubles and generate a recurring income stream for your agency.

Moreover, with the Cloudways’ Server Transfer feature you are able to easily transfer the client’s server to their account to complete the handover process.

Make a killer first impression by hosting your cilents’ sites on the fastest platform.

We are 4.8/5 on G2. With load times as low as 79ms, Cloudways is one of the fastest hosting providers out there.

The Handover Process: Here’s How to Do It (Step by Step)

Now that you know what’s at stake with the website handover process – and what to look out for – here’s a general step-by-step outline of the process.

1. Confirm Final Approval

You should start the website handover process by confirming that your client is happy. Website design collaboration is a difficult science where requirements can change quickly, so it’s worth getting the client’s approval in writing.

You will want to deliver a final compelling presentation and get this final confirmation over email or in writing on a project approval form. With your final approval in hand, you can make any small adjustments and prepare to wrap up the project in good spirit. You can ensure that you’re meeting your client’s expectations by creating regular client reports.

2. Deploy the Website

Now that you have secured your final approval, it’s time to go live.

There are many fundamental steps that you’ll want to follow here. The exact nature of those steps will vary according to whether your client already has hosting or not, and whether you’ll be deploying the site on their server.

This content piece from William Craig on WebFX offers a great walkthrough to deploying a website. In summary, you’ll want to accomplish the following:

  • Coordinate access to DNS record management
  • Set up DNS records and configure settings
  • Set up and test the website on the production server
  • Set up email
  • Create a backup of the old site and deploy the new one

3. Organize Share Site Files

Now that everything is set and the site is live, you’ll want to methodically go through the process of organizing and sharing all of your site files with the client.

This will include key items like:

  • Scripts
  • Media content (videos, graphics, royalty-free photos)
  • Stylesheets
  • Databases

You should neatly package and compress all files and deliver them to your client alongside your offboarding packet.

4. Handover Control

As mentioned earlier, the nature of the actual hand Off will vary according to the hosting option that your client has chosen for the project.

If you are hosting client sites yourself and using WordPress agency hosting, you’ll need to provide login information to the website backend. If the website is being deployed on a client-server, you’ll have to outline how this fits in your offboarding packet.

5. Work Through Your Project Completion Checklist

It’s good practice to develop and maintain a comprehensive project completion checklist that you can use for your projects.

You should take this opportunity to go through your checklist, review your performance, and tie up any loose ends.

Here’s what you might include within your checklist:

  • Have you shared all the project assets?
  • Did you meet the project scope?
  • Did you complete your post-project report?
  • Did you charge all of your costs?
  • Did you organize all of your files and assets internally?

6. Offer Relevant Guidance

Your client must have a running website by this stage, but you might need to offer some guidance along the way.

You can minimize the need to offer post-project support by putting together an excellent offboarding packet, of course, but you should still make yourself available.

If you’re concerned about the level of post-project guidance you need to offer, you might want to mandate a maintenance period in your contract. This mandatory period can give your clients peace of mind and protect you from offering too much guidance without receiving payment.

7. Check-in on Your Client Regularly

Want to delight your client and build a lasting relationship? A couple of well-placed phone calls after their website has gone live will surely win them over.

Use these brief conversations as an opportunity to casually ask your client how things are going for them. You might be able to solve any niggling issues at this stage and it’s also the perfect opportunity to collect qualitative feedback.

To ensure you don’t forget about this important step, your project manager should schedule a few intermittent check-up calls and incorporate them into your communication plan. You can also use team chat apps to keep things casual and catch up.

Having Last Minute Doubts?

Before handing off the website to your client review out this extensive list covers everything.

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Website Hand Off Best Practices

There are many best practices that you can follow to make the website handover process as smooth and effective as possible.

Let’s take a closer look at seven of the best practices:

1. Outline the Hand Off Process at the Outset of Your Project.

The shape and nature of your final handover process shouldn’t come as a shock to your client. Instead, they should be well prepared because it’s critical that you outline the process at the beginning of your collaboration. It is better to make it a part of your web design proposal.

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To ensure you do this effectively, you should use the proper project management software to organize your website project and share its outline with your project stakeholders.

2. Remain Patient and Prepare for Questions

Once you’ve handed over the website, you can expect to receive many questions from your client. They might ask you about anything ranging from hosting to SEO and the minutiae of your design and development choices.

It’s important that you remain patient and helpful during this process. Some clients will be more demanding than others, and it might be helpful to create a questionnaire that your client can complete.

This questionnaire will guide the conversation that takes place after the website has gone live and help you add structure to the process.

3. Use This as an Opportunity to Upsell

The handover process is a great opportunity for digital agencies to organically upsell certain additional services to their clients. Do ensure you avoid feature bloat. Concentrate on offering complimentary services.

During the handing over phase, you might decide to delicately mention whether or not your agency offers additional services like integrations with marketing tools, setting up marketing automation sequences, or SEO expertise.

You can share some marketing material with your client as part of the project handover process, or mention those additional services during the project conclusion.

Also, if you also resell web hosting to your clients then it’s the best time to offer it.  Tell your clients about the wonderful hosting you can offer to them and there’s a possibility that you may get to manage their websites and hosting for a longer-term.

4. Develop a Repeatable Process

Every website hand Off process offers an opportunity to learn something new and sharpen your general handover process.

If you incorporate that learning from each experience, you’ll eventually create a repeatable handover process that is faster, simpler, and more impressive for your clients.

To learn from such experiences, you should ask for client feedback and objectively consider how it went during your post-project review phase. Assess what you might change next time to make the process even better.

5. Create a Host of Documentation Templates

Inside your offboarding packet, you’ll want to share different key documents with your client. This will include things like:

  • Login information
  • DNS Records
  • Certificates
  • Directory outlines

You can make your life much easier by creating attractive templates that are fast and easy to adjust. This will drive additional value for your customers and it’s a great marketing opportunity. Your client will use those documents for many years to come.

6. Mandate a Maintenance Period

Some digital agencies receive countless queries after the handover process has concluded. It’s only natural that your client will want the best experience possible, after all.

If you’re concerned about those questions taking up too much of your time, you might want to mandate a maintenance period within your initial contract.

There are a few advantages if you choose to go this route:

  • Your customers will have complete peace of mind.
  • You can rest assured that you’ll be able to bill for the support that you offer after the handover process.
  • You’ll be better able to organize your time and reduce the likelihood of interruption.

7. Provide Training (and Resources)

If you have created a particularly complex website, it’s important that you provide your client with the appropriate training. This will impress your clients, help them to get the most from their website, and reduce the likelihood of you facing intrusive questions.

Check out some of the training techniques and resources that you might want to provide to your clients: :

  • Face-to-face training: During the website hand Off phase, you might decide to incorporate face-to-face training for those particularly complex projects.
  • Video walkthroughs: Face-to-face training can have its shortfalls, and personnel can change. It is important that you account for those factors. You might want to record the training, for instance, so that your client has an enduring resource.
  • Documentation within a knowledge base: If you use certain techniques and features across your client websites, you might want to develop a knowledge base that contains clear and accurate documentation.

Closing Thoughts

Handing over a client’s website doesn’t have to be a headache. As we have seen, there are many best practices that you can use to smoothen out the process and achieve consistent results.

As with any other process, it’s recommended that you revise its suitability on a regular basis. You might decide to schedule quarterly reviews of your handover process, for instance, or encourage your team members to share their feedback.

The handover process should be an iterative one where each small improvement makes the next project smoother and more productive. Learn along the way and you’ll be sure to delight your clients.

I hope that this article gives you the power to review your handover process and make it as successful as possible for your future projects.

Note: This article is a guest blog post by Max Benz. Max Benz is head of content at Filestage, a content review and approval platform that is used by thousands of marketing teams, agencies and media companies around the world. As a side hustle, he’s running a German remote job board, remote-job.net.

** Editor’s Note: This article is edited for clarity.

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Arsalan Sajid

Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!

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