How much to charge for Simple Website Maintainance

In this blog post, I’ll discuss how I think about the maintenance of websites with low complexity and that don’t support critical business operations. They’re mostly marketing-type pages with no eCommerce and for businesses with up to 50 employees.

When considering maintenance contracts for WordPress sites I ask myself a few questions:

  • How much support will the client require? Do I need to be able to support them via phone during business hours most of the time or can the occasional email answer wait for a week?
  • What’s the cost to the client’s business if their Website doesn’t work correctly for a few hours or days?
  • Is the client outsourcing part of their operations to me or is it more of training support for their team?
  • What are ongoing costs on my side – plugins, hosting, or monitoring?
  • Do I get value from continuing to work with them?

Don’t offer website hosting

When setting up a website for a smaller client or project I make sure that they’re hosting with a reputable hosting provider. Hosting is insanely cheap these days and I can’t compete with a local web hosting provider that has active phone support.

It also means that I decoupled myself from the commodity layer of support and if the client doesn’t want my specialized support, someone else will take care of providing for the basic infrastructure.

It also gives me another ally when debugging strange issues such as web site not being accessible from a certain ISP. The web hosting provider has better access and leverage towards ISP than I would with my own server.

Offer a year of free support and maintenance

The client will always call you first if they need help. Since you want to help them and keep good business relations you’ll help them. It will also help you fix any issues that you didn’t catch during the development.

During this time you’ll see the types of support requests they’ll send you. You’ll teach them how to do things on their own and maybe build a small workflow improvement so they don’t need to have you in the loop. It’s also an opportunity for upsells like offering them additional services or to start planning upgrades based on their needs.

How much to charge and how?

I find that charging between 10 – 20% of the project cost for each year of support is a good ballpark figure to start the estimate. It will also give you a reasonable amount of time each month to do planned updates during your slow times.

 Another way to have this conversation is to say that you’ll plan for an average of 4 hours of work per month for a year – so that’s 48 hours. You then multiply it by your hourly rate and you get a yearly contract value – such as 1200 EUR for 25 EUR/hour or 3600 for 75 EUR/hour. A reasonable amount of hours per month is something business owners understand and you’re also probably comfortable charging at that amount.

 You should charge this as an upfront yearly fee. There are multiple benefits to this:

  • Removes your administrative overhead
  • Ensures that you’re paid for being on standby
  • Moves the value conversation to once a year instead of potential questions with an invoice every month

It’s a good idea to have a running log of your work activities so you can send a regular FYI report at regular intervals so that they are aware of your “background” activities.

Conclusion

You should charge for maintenance if you can find a reasonable market rate to support it. If your client can’t justify paying for a few hours of your availability per month then it’s probably not worth trying to sell it on them. In such cases, I rather offer it for free and ask them for additional referrals.

Overall you should focus on finding better clients that can extract ongoing value from their websites. It’s much easier to charge and provide value with your services in such cases.

Bogdan Petrovčič explains why Legal work is still paper-first

In Meaningful work interviews I talk to people about their area of work and expertise to better understand what they do and why it matters to them.

Bogdan Petrovčič is a lawyer with a strong interest in Technology, Consumer Rights, and Personal Data Protection. We chatted about the intersection of law and technology and what the IT industry should know about modern regulatory practices.

How would people that you work with introduce you?

I am happy when I hear them say “he’s not an ordinary lawyer” or “he’s a cool type of a lawyer”. Sometimes people also mention that I’m a co-founder of Ljubljana’s Legal Hackers chapter.

What does it mean to you to be a cool lawyer?

The usual path for a lawyer in Slovenia involves going through a highly standardized way of ever-increasing specialization. It’s a very labor-intensive path and you end up with very field-specific knowledge aimed at handling criminal or civil law cases in court proceedings. My method instead is to approach the field of law from a more problem-centric perspective. Meanwhile, I’m mainly trying to understand the pain points of technology and IT-related businesses and what the legal needs of people in these particular areas are.

What kinds of needs do you see in your clients?

Initially, they’re trying to understand the basic legal framework. After that, they’re looking for legal certainty around their business ideas. They know what they want to build and they’re trying to ensure that there are no legal obstacles to their work.

Generally speaking, you could say that fears and desires usually underpin human reasoning and decision-making. You can therefore also make a similar argument in law and business. I often see the law as a way of managing client expectations (i.e. fears, opportunities, etc.) with the legal outcome of a real or hypothetical situation. For instance, legal advice typically changes depending on which mode of thinking the client is in at the moment (i.e. fear/desire). I find that addressing fear is at the heart of most legal advice.

 What kinds of fears and worries do you see in business owners?

The inversed and causal nature of the relationship between the ease of setting up an online business and the sheer amount of regulation that you need to understand to be compliant amazes me. You can create a Shopify store with a few clicks and start selling in minutes. At the same time, there’s no easy way to find all the regulatory requirements for such a business. Most entrepreneurs operate with a fear of not complying and also not knowing how to fully comply while still running their business.

What I’m noticing is that when you’re opening a physical business you’re automatically in contact with many contractors, business owners, and potential clients. You’re also usually a part of a local community of practice for your specific field of business. All of these people will help you understand the existence of different legal requirements and usually even help you implement them in practice. This support network is usually not present for new online businesses. Because the friction involved in opening an online business is low, it’s very unlikely that you would even be aware of all the different requirements that you need to follow. 

What kinds of popular fear and desire tendencies do you usually see?

The cynical answer is bitcoin and cryptocurrency-related schemes. Generally, anything that’s supposedly offering an immense and nearly immediate payoff is usually just a new business model that is trying to capitalize on the more evolved variants of fear and desire, namely the lust and greed of the user or end consumer.

What do your clients fundamentally want from you?

People with a compliance or legal issue generally want to know three things. How likely it is for them to succeed (i.e. not get fined, win a case, etc.), how long achieving success will take, and how much it will cost. 

As a part of answering the last question, we once ventured into prototyping a Legal Calculator (sl. Pravni kalkulator) that tries to estimate the cost of filing a basic claim in civil court.

These types of tools are already really popular in bigger countries. You can also clearly see a trend of legal startups launching advanced (i.e. case filing, case prediction, etc.) tools for the US market. As such tools become more accessible and reliable, this creates new ethical questions for law professionals. Popular focus is usually placed on the question should advanced legal AI decide on moral issues and classical “trolley-lever” problems? But I find that there a lot of other real and practical issues. For instance, is it ethical for an attorney to recommend the filing of a claim to a client, who’s “calculated success rate” for his case is low? 

How do you see technology concerning Law in Slovenia?

I published a few interviews on the Ius-Info portal and had a lot of private talks with Slovenian attorneys on this subject in the past year. I think the consensus is that the assumption, that digital transformation of law in smaller countries that have their language like Slovenia will naturally come from the private sector, is wrong. For instance, our judicial system generally only accepts claims that are filed in the physical form (lightyears behind their counterparts at the HM Online Court in the UK, the European Patent Office, etc.), when passing the Slovenian bar exam, you are not allowed to use a computer (with or without internet access), the access to case law is limited, work on digital systems and processes is (in my view) non-existent, etc. Within this kind of environment, it’s hard to see general practice or overall legal digitalization as a priority even if it has shown to save time and reduce costs.

How do you see the new generation of legal assistance tools such as contract drafting and AI-assisted research?

I think they’re going to make some existing legal work easier for lawyers. But everyday work will stay mostly the same.

At the same time, it opens a very real possibility that lowering the cost of producing such systems will create a disproportionately large amount of work for our judicial system. We can already see parts of this happening as it’s becoming easier to identify and find different offenses and automatically generate fines and notices (for instance, software-supported automatic copyright breach detection in Germany). I thereby predict a clear limit on the scope and number of AI or “machine learning assisted” claims one is allowed to file soon.

Where do you see opportunities for people with IT-related skills that are not lawyers?

If they’re motivated by potential monetary gains, then it’s fairly straightforward. They can make an analysis of where and how parts of our “legal bureaucracy” are failing or can be automated and build services that will replace the middlemen with technology. If they want to do this as a free “public” service, they can also get in touch with the Legal Hackers organization in their area, as this is typically the type of project that its members are working on. For instance, a friend of mine helped me launch a simple input-output query site for Covid related government grants last year – www.robokrat.si.

That being said, I tend to find that it gets even more interesting if your initial motivation isn’t a potential monetary gain. For instance, I don’t generally think or recommend that the Slovenian legislation or market should be the focus of anyone who wants to deploy technological innovation in the legal field. The GDPR provides individuals different rights to control how and where their data is or should be used. The market for serving people as a way of actually exercising their rights is fairly undeveloped and there are opportunities to create new “free” data brokerages and additional tools to better manage individual and communal relationships between users and companies.

You can also think about law as a general-purpose language processing problem. If you have the capabilities to work with large sets of natural language data and this gives you new capabilities around existing legal documents and procedures.

We’re also operating within an increasingly complex regulatory environment. For instance, there are ever-increasing opportunities for environmental activists to use open data and their crowd-sourced measurement networks to detect when the conditions from enacted regulations are not being met by a particular company or country.

What I learned from talking with Bogdan

Digital transformation of modern office is still ongoing and there are a lot of opportunities by just sharing our remote first and IT centric workflows.

With global digital market it’s going to be increasingly important to have a good lawyer or a legal subscription to help navigate the complexity.

Technology will allow us to create cheap denial of service attacks on our judiciary system. There are abusiness opportunities in this and also new ethical questions.

Average Play Time duration in Google Analytics

I’ve recently had a challenge where I have a website that has video and audio content. I wanted to log events into Google Analytics in a way that would allow me for each media to have the following stats:

  • Average playtime
  • Distribution of playtime
  • Total playtime

Inspiration

I was greatly inspired by this article on Video Tracking (The Right Way) for Google Analytics as it’s displaying a vision of a good dashboard for a multimedia heavy web property. The main issue is that it was never clear to me how much of that is aspirational and how much it’s possible to implement.

I recently found Enhanced Google Analytics Tracking for Video Publishers that describes this process in more detail. It describes two different approaches: heartbeat and milestone approach.

The heartbeat approach is where the client (web site) sends an event every X minutes to indicate that the user is still watching our material.

Milestone approach is where we have split our video in distributed chunks such as every 10% and send the event back to Analytics when a user reaches that chunk.

Both milestone and heartbeat approach have an issue that you can potentially lose the last chunk of information if the user navigates away from the web page and you send that last event for one of many reasons (see below). This also means that you can’t send a specific total view time at the end of viewing sessions as you can’t be sure that you’ll have a chance to transmit the information.

Problem: It’s hard or impossible to send accurate events from mobile devices

It would be nice if we could send an event when the user navigates away from our website. It turns out that it’s not something you can reliably do. There are multiple reasons:

  • unload() event is so unreliable that MDN says to not even bother using it on mobile. With more than 50% of traffic being on mobile devices these days this carries a serious measurement error.
  • Mobile devices allow playing audio and sometimes video on the lock screen or in Picture in Picture mode. In such cases, you sometimes don’t get any javascript calls back to the website and you can’t log events to your analytics.

Problem: Google Analytics is append-only with very limited statistics

In a perfect world, we’d send heartbeat events for a specific user’s video session and just append the last total view time to that heartbeat event. Then in the next step, we could filter out these sessions in a way that would only read the last heartbeat value and not the ones that came before. I couldn’t figure out how to do this with a free version of Google Analytics and I have a hunch it’s not possible. I think that just the sheer complexity of such calculation is outside of the scope of Google Analytics.

This means that we can’t get accurate numbers and that the best thing we can do is go with milestone approximation.

How does it look in practice?

I’ve implemented two approaches: 10% segments and 5-minute chunks. This way I can measure the overall completion rate of videos across the site and at the same time get a feeling for the number of time users are viewing the content.

These are two views of the same video recording. As you can see it has a good completion rate of about 50% people getting to the end and most of them getting to the approximate total time of the video (44 minutes). Some of them even went back and rewatched some parts!

One interesting side effect of adding these analytics to the system is that our average session duration went up drastically. I think it’s easy to under-measure things if you have a website that isn’t part of the normal e-commerce or marketing funnel style page.

What I wish I could do better inside Google Analytics

If you look at the screenshots closely you can see that report is showing individual ratio percent of each event action. What I’d like to have is a way to link these events together into series so I could indicate funnels much better.

Building these ‘per video’ reports requires a lot of clicking each time we publish a new video. It would be good to have a way to automatically generate a report for each in Google Analytics.

Get better averages and statistics around Event Values.

Lessons learned and looking forward

Implemented is always better than perfect. Even with such a rough measurement approach, we’ve started seeing user patterns that were hidden from us before.

A free version of Google Analytics is amazing but at some point, we’ll have to look into implementing a different technology. It’s probably going to be supplemental and understanding the limits of the existing one will be invaluable in looking at use cases for whatever we choose.

In the future, I want to look into Matomo with the Media Analytics plugin. It seems that it offers some of the more advanced functionality.

Gathering data is an easy part. Now the bigger challenge is how to distill this into a format that offers actional insights for the content team.

Marko Brumen – why it’s worth working in Culture

In Meaningful work interviews I talk to people about their area of work and expertise to better understand what they do and why it matters to them.

Marko Brumen talks about differences between art, culture and entertainment. He shares what it’s like to produce cultural events and what it means for him to be a part of a bigger culture focused organization. We end the conversation discussing opportunities in museum and culture space.

How do your coworkers introduce you?

They would say that I wear many hats. I take care of Vetrinjski dvor (public venue in an old castle) where I coordinate activities and make sure that artists and visitors can efficiently do their work. I also oversee the production of street theatre programmes that is part of the biggest Slovenian festival, Festival Lent. I scout for locations and when there is a festival I’m the one that coordinates and makes sure everyone and everything is at the right place at the right time. Part of that is also making sure that everyone feels welcome, can do their job, and that their work environment is a safe one. My official job title is a producer.

How does your role as a producer differ from a creative producer?

A creative producer deals with the creative content of the performance. They keep up with creative trends and topics that are alive in the artistic community. They work with artists to ensure that their work is aligned with a larger creative vision of the performance or a festival. As a producer I’m also part of the process but more from an implementation perspective. I’m focusing more on what kind of space, equipment, and other resources do these artists need to deliver their vision. 

How did you get into this role?

I studied marketing and always found it interesting. As a student, I was already working in a cultural space so I was getting familiar with how things work. After studies, I was thinking about what to do next and I wasn’t really interested in traditional marketing and advertising of household products. Culture is always full of very interesting people, very dynamic by nature and I could connect with this kind of creative energy.

Who do you think would do well in your field of culture work? 

Someone who cares a lot about substance, that artists can tell their stories and that people can hear them. It’s important to them that visitors can reflect on this work and that it leaves an impact on them. Not necessarily the same impact that the artist had in mind. It’s also a very social environment and very different from office work in a marketing agency.

There’s also a very big talent gap in our industry. It’s not as well paid as more commercial jobs and it also has bigger communication challenges. As such it’s a space where individuals can have an outsized impact compared to what they could do in a more corporate environment.

When I was comparing these potential paths, I was also looking at tradeoffs between having a ‘9-5’ job vs. having a ‘9-9’ job and what kind of life I would have. There is less separation of working and non-working hours, but the benefit is that you get to be around interesting people more, attend parties around events, and be immersed in all the creative energy that emerges.

Why is working in a culture so meaningful to you?

The feeling that comes with seeing tens or hundreds of people enjoy the event that you help bring to life. The fact that they’re leaving with new impressions, thoughts, and that they a good time being around their friends and other attendees. There are also all the creatives that you get to meet and empower to show their works of art. You also get to understand their message a bit better and it might open a completely new perspective to you.

After many years of doing this, I also noticed that some of our past events left an important imprint on the society around me. They changed the expectations of people from their cities, neighborhoods, and how to live their lives. What kind of events and activities they expect to be available and they would tell us that they miss them, if they’re not there anymore. When they talk about nostalgia around your past work it’s a real message on how much impact it had on them.

Some events also serve as an important bookmark in history. They opened important questions around society and how we live and they’re still not answered. As such people refer back to them when they’re revisiting these topics. Our audiences are the kind of people that are creating a change in different parts of society. 

All of this together creates the feeling that supporting all of this really matters. You don’t see it immediately, but with a longer time horizon, it becomes much more visible. It contributes to the collective consciousness of society. 

How is art different from entertainment?

Entertainment is primarily trying to entertain without trying to provide a critical perspective. Compared in such a way, art events have a fundamentally different type of audience and expected levels of participation. You’re also participating in them as a part of a large audience group that creates a sense of shared reality. It’s a catalyst for reflection that you can use to further discuss with your friends. Even a bad concert creates a space of comparison – what was bad about it and which similar concert was better. It forces you to think.

What’s the difference between art and culture?

The purpose of art is to either ask questions, offer answers, or both. It’s constantly interrogating society about the direction, purpose, and methods that it is using to get there.

Culture is everything around us. It has a strong connection to different identities: personal, national, or cultural. It’s a consequence of how we live our lives and not the cause of it. It is often an early reflection of what’s happening inside the society.

Where do museums fit into the story of culture?

They started as spaces where we store important artifacts of our time. In recent years their role has expanded to also interpret their collections. They’re also organizing events and creating spaces that provide additional context to their collections. They’re more proactive in communicating the purpose of their collections and how they still relate to modern society.

Historically they were just a space to store artifacts and offer access to researchers, scientists, and the public. This is not enough anymore. They need to be much more proactive in their work. They used different tactics to do this. Some are more Disneyesque while others are trying to go a more digital route. There’s often an undertone of creating space for reflection and critical thought. When people understand the context of how history was made it helps people understand where we are going.

Where do you see opportunities in the space of culture?

There’s a huge knowledge gap inside the industry. A lot of these institutions don’t know how to proactively engage with modern technologies and new ways of thinking. The problem goes beyond just technological developments. We need leaders that understand innovation, how to be present in modern society and how to organize workflows around it. All layers need support from different parts of the industry. The problem is also quite hard because a lot of institutions don’t have a clear vision about their new role, how they communicate it, and how do they plan to achieve it. It’s mostly funded through public money which makes it extra hard to retain high-quality people.

What I learned from talking with Marko

Type of organization heavily influences lifestyle of its employees. I need to consider what kind of lifestyle do I want and how does the organization support that.

Small building blocks of many one time events still lead to something greater. It’s hard to know in the moment if the work will have a lasting impact.

GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) world is going through a rethink of what their goal is and there are plenty of interesting problems that needs solving. Being a generalist from a different field is a plus in such environment.

Katja shares her views on Quality Assurance role in software projects

In Meaningful work interviews I talk to people about their area of work and expertise to better understand what they do and why it matters to them.

Katja Škafar shares with us how she sees a Quality Assurance role in software projects, and where the industry can do better. Her background is in cognitive sciences and it was not a straightforward journey to what she does now.

How do your co-workers introduce your role on a project?

They would use my formal description and say that I’m a Quality-Assurance person (QA) that will take care of the testing and quality of the software project. 

How do you see your role?

I’m the final person in a process that ensures that the work that we do is up to expected standards and it is of good quality in general. For me, the quality of the user experience and little details are as important as technical specifications. From my personal experience, I understand how easy it is to lose trust in an application if it’s not polished enough. That’s why I keep advocating for end-users to ensure that we deliver a good final product.

Where do you see opportunities?

At the moment I’m thinking of how to make sure there is an understanding of the needs of our end users. I see how easy it is to build products that are optimized for a group of young IT-savvy users. I feel that there is this wall between the people who build the applications and the people who use them. We create processes around user testing and user research that might not serve us and we make it hard to just ask them “what do you think about this?”.

I find it encouraging that when there’s a new major version of an application, that they also do a survey where they ask me about how I feel about the changes. To me, that means that they care about my opinion and want to ensure that I enjoy using the application. I think we as an IT industry can learn how to listen better.

With an educational background in cognitive sciences, how did you end up in your QA role?

My previous job was as an IT recruiter. As part of my work, I started discovering all the different available positions. That’s where I discovered the role of Quality Assurance and I realized that it is what I want to do.

I enrolled in a six-month after-work web development course and at the same time started participating in crowd testing platforms. I started learning more about the field and how to use the popular QA tools. At some point, I found an opening for a junior QA position, and that’s how I got my current job. It took me all together about 8 months of focused work.

What do you do to keep learning?

I’m still reading a lot, watching YouTube tutorials or Conference recordings. With every new project, I try to anticipate QA needs and start researching possible solutions. There’s also a lot of existing knowledge inside my company so I make sure to always ask a lot of questions. 

What I learned from talking with Katja

The last person in the process should have a strong understanding of initial constraints. This way they can highlight difference from initial agreements.

It’s quite straighforward to switch fields of work if you can invest a few months in dedicated study.

Be bold and ask for what you need.