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The best practices for a seamless site handover

Make satisfied customers and a hassle-free site handover staples of each of your projects. Even though the ownership transition is generally the last stage of the web design process, there are two reasons why you should start talking about it with clients as early on as possible.

First, having clear project expectations keeps a collaboration on track and prevents mistaken assumptions about the end product.

Second, making the site handover an open and ongoing conversation gives you plenty of opportunities to advertise your maintenance services, if you offer them. As you build trust and rapport with your client, you will probably notice the shift in how your pitch is received.

It’s time to make those two conditions a reality for your business. The best practices described below will help ensure the client handoff is a seamless moment. Plus, look for a pro tip in each section for even more actionable advice. This is the website handover checklist you can start using today for your own business.

01. Set mutual expectations for the site handover with your client

Define from the outset exactly what you mean by the term ‘site handover.’ Your client most likely will have little to no familiarity with the way website building works overall, not to mention the particulars of the handoff. So, as you’re reviewing the stages of your web design process in your initial client meeting, elaborate on what this stage entails.

It can be easier to open with what a site handover is not. It is not a fixed stopping point for the website, or an indication that the pages can run themselves ‘hands-free’ from then on. This can be a common misunderstanding on the client’s side when it comes to the world of web design.

Rather, a site handover is a transfer of responsibility: from the web designer or developer to the paying customer. There are still many ongoing tasks to tend to that are critical to the site’s functionality. So a site handover is about deciding with the client who will take charge of managing this list.

In a complete handover, the client will assume the full weight of continuous web monitoring and optimization. However, another possibility is that you will perform this maintenance. That is, the client will be the owner, but you will be contracted to conduct A/B testing, implement social campaigns, drive forward an SEO strategy, or whatever else you agree upon.

No matter which form of a handover you’re doing, use these two questions to set your client’s expectations for what happens at that stage:

1. What deliverable will your client receive?

This answer goes beyond a ‘website.’ A specific answer will mention a unique domain name, the kind of Premium package you’re using to build their website, noted accompanying features, and any marketing integrations you plan to enable. And, of course, the date on which they can expect it all to be transferred to their Wix account. Just like any other shopping experience, consumers want to know from the get-go what they’re getting in exchange for their money. Don’t make them wait till the end to do the big reveal. Being upfront about the value you’re providing will position you as trustworthy, and prevent miscommunication between you and your client.

2. What work will you do after the site handover to refresh and update the website?

As you describe the site handover, review the list of tasks that must be regularly completed to maintain good website health. This would also be the moment to present any services you offer that can support clients in meeting that standard. If your client is interested, decide together which actions you’re taking on. Even if you don’t offer additional maintenance, you might find running through this list is still a smart business move. It helps clients better understand the scope of your work, so they’re not holding you to expectations that are beyond your job description. Be sure to cover these five key topics:

  • Technical support. If you regularly use Wix to build websites for your clients, you’re probably pretty familiar with its platform by now. While Wix offers customer support, you can also take advantage of your extensive knowledge of its ‘ins and outs’ to offer customer assistance. Clients tend to see the value in a support agent with the most in-depth understanding of their website around.

  • Minor updates. As the client gets to know their website in the months following the handover, they might discover there some elements they would like to change after second thought, or adjust to match a new company initiative. Clarify both your availability to work on these kinds of changes, and what you consider to be within the scope of this category. If you are open to being contacted for these alterations after a handoff, it’s worth explaining the difference between a major and minor revision to your client. There are certain fixes that require minimal time and come at a lower price point. Then there are those requests which you can immediately tell will mean a full design or structural overhaul. From your client’s perspective, it can be difficult to tell just how much work is needed to execute their new idea. Offer up some examples of each kind of revision, so they know the fee to expect and whether their proposal will be classified as a ‘follow up’ or a new project of its own.

  • Site optimization. This area makes it clear why a handover is in no way code for a website going stagnant. There is always room for tweaking and improving, based on careful analysis of web visitor behavior from a variety of marketing integrations. The data is there, and rich with insights for new directions - it just takes someone with the time and understanding to interpret what they’re seeing and translate it into a site edit. Because many clients might not have the time or expertise to fulfill this role, you have a compelling case for presenting your capabilities. Perhaps it’s a weekly report on new traffic. Or utilizing heat maps to inform a periodic A/B test. And even if you don’t offer site optimization services, at least brief your client on the necessity of these adjustments for the healthy functioning of their site.

  • Marketing services. Once a client has a brand new website, the next step is making it work for them. It could be generating new leads, selling products, building a community, or whatever else the identified business goal may be. A weekly blog post, monthly email newsletter, or a sales campaign on social channels are all means to that objective. Illustrate for your client how their website fits into a larger marketing initiative, and, if relevant, how you are uniquely poised to make that connection.

  • Business consultancy. This angle is suitable if you or a team member has sales and advertising experience. New businesses in particular might be looking for guidance in how to link their online, social media, and email marketing efforts.

Using the two questions above, you can determine what web maintenance needs to be done and who will do it. Now, the remaining decisions you have to make revolve around the logistics of the handoff.

First up is finalizing the steps leading up to the handover. This will look a little different for each web professional, depending on how you structure your payments. The important thing is that you do have an outlined process, and that you share it with your customers. For example, if you charge 50% upfront and 50% before publishing, here is one common timeline:

  1. Share the link to preview the live site. In your message, enclose a final approval form to be signed by your client after viewing your finished work.

  2. Receive the signed approval form back from the client.

  3. Send the client an invoice.

  4. Receive the payment.

  5. Publish the site, and transfer ownership to their account.

At the end of this conversation, formalize everything you talked about (the specifics of your deliverable, site maintenance responsibilities, and the timeline for payment and handover) into your signed contract. Having a document on hand to refer back to further down the line is helpful for preventing scope creep, and staying on track with project goals.

Pro tip: Clients might not grasp just yet how extensive an effort it can be to manage a website. Even if they decline your services during your initial project meeting, it doesn’t mean the conversation is over. You can revisit the option at later stages of the web design process (e.g. during the handover itself).