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How to successfully hand off websites to your clients

Jamie Bell's Layout avatar

You’re reaching the finish line for your latest project. Over the course of weeks (or maybe even months), you’ve spent hours expertly crafting a website that brilliantly balances the client’s needs (and inevitable edits) with your creative vision. From the initial meeting to the contract and throughout the production process, you’ve worked endlessly to design their dream site.

Now it’s time to think about the client handoff. You need to hand off your final product in an intelligent, impressive, and informative way. The honest truth is that most designers don’t think this far into the process. Instead, they’ll plan the entire project with the idea that the handoff is the end; that they can just give the client the final files and give themselves a pat on the back.

From that moment forward, a bunch of scenarios can play out that affect how you can scale your business. Without a successful handoff, you could be looking at a frustrating future phone call from a confused client, an uneducated developer, or an overbearing boss. Or maybe you handed off the project somewhat successfully, but didn’t think about building a long-term relationship with the client, so they hire someone else for their next project. Or if your handoff wasn’t thorough enough, they might need answers to a bunch of questions about using WordPress, and you’re not sure how to invoice them for an hour of over-the-phone help. The relationship – and design – you’ve worked so hard on could be at risk simply because of an unsuccessful handoff.

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Let’s avoid all of those scenarios and use the handoff as the perfect opportunity to finish a project the right way and form a profitable long-term partnership. Here are five ways that you can seamlessly hand off finished websites to your clients.

Long before the handoff, make sure your client knows what the design is supposed to achieve.

Sure, your client is paying you for a new website, but often they might not even know what that means. They might not understand what happens after the site is launched, or realize that it can significantly affect their bottom line. Teach your clients about what web design can achieve for them, and speak to them in a way they’ll understand. Communicate the fact that your work can bring specific, measurable results and go beyond just “brand awareness” — it can affect conversions, sales and much, much more.

Then during the handoff, you’ll have set expectations properly, so you can avoid misunderstandings or multiple rounds of small edits. You’ll also set yourself up to be a better candidate for future projects, because your client will understand the thought, value and hard work you put into the site.

Understand the benefit of the client handoff.

Every handoff should be thought out well in advance. Communicate the importance of the handoff to your team (whether they’re in-house or freelancers) and to your client, so that both sides are prepared for the transition. Make sure that it’s built into your timeline and budget, so that both you and your client don’t assume that it’s the other party’s responsibility.

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Choose the hostest with the mostest.

If you’re handing off a website to a client that isn’t the most technically savvy, the last thing you want to do is confuse them with a bunch of babble about server administration, WordPress updates, and security plugins. Choose a managed WordPress host (like Flywheel!) that will take care of all of that for them, so you won’t have to field those pesky phone calls and emails in the months going forward.

Provide a project summary.

Consider including a project summary to go with the rest of your deliverables. Not only will this remind your client of all the top-notch work you’ve completed, but you can also use it to highlight how much value you’ve brought to the project. If the site is going to be handed off to someone else or picked up again at a later date, it’s also a great place to add a few lessons learned or final recommendations.

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Give your client an abundance of information.

The more your client understands about the work you’ve done, the better it is for you in the long run! Outline any features that require a bit of background understanding. Add a glossary for vocabulary and acronyms that might be confusing to someone outside of the industry. Not only will it provide value for your client, but it also gives them a great starting point for finding the answers to questions on their own. You could also consider providing tutorials (written is great; video is even better) to take your clients through the WordPress dashboard or basic site maintenance.

Need help teaching your clients WordPress? This guide has 20 easy ways you can help them learn.

On the technical side, you should also make sure your code is well-commented so that anyone who works on the site going forward is able to understand why you’ve coded something the way you have. Crafting clear and concise documentation is important in creating a site that can be easily adapted in the future.

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These five tips for a seamless handoff will work wonders for your business. How do you set clients up for success after you’re done with their site?

Want to take your client handoff to the next level? Get five additional tips in this ebook.

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