I’m planning to build websites that do not have a CMS (Content Management System) to enable the user to update their content. I have more than enough expertise to enter this business. The only thing that occupies my mind is the limitation of updating the websites content by myself because doing update needs technical knowledge that a typical user does NOT have.

Considering the money I take from each customer for the design, am I under obligation to provide the content update service for lifetime?! I’m really concerned about how to responsibly end support for a customer because ending customer support is a perfectly legitimate concept.

Please note the option of developing a CMS for these websites is off the table. Also, suppose that no other developers are going to accept to provide content update service.

How do I handle content changes and small updates through the lifetime of the website, without a CMS?

  • This is not offtopic? This seems to be a topic for Stackoverflow. – Peter MV May 19 '14 at 19:44
  • "I’m planning to build websites that do not have a CMS (Content Management System) to enable the user to update their content" <--- this doesn't make any sense. The purpose of a CMS is for a non-technical user to be able to update content. – Xavier J May 19 '14 at 20:41

Don't bother thinking how, whom or when a product will be updated if you plan selling stand-alone services.
Your only responsibility is to inform your clients about what they really get by choosing you (your services) against other options.

Using, selling or offering CMS as part of your product is not a requirement but merely an option. What else is optional is you taking the responsibility over how or when a product gets updated (changed, extended, modified).

If your choice is to sell the design as a stand-alone product (service) and than offer maintenance and regular updates as two separate services but no CMS integration, that's fine.
Don't ask yourself what will happen in the long run. If the client chooses you today but tomorrow will prefer someone else or no one, it should be OK as long as you make sure to explain to your clients what they really get, the costs and implications and of course, as long as you make sure the contract between you and your clients protects you by stating that the product/service is delivered as it and that further changes/updates will be subject of another contractual agreement.

Bear in mind that you are under the obligation to provide content update only if explicitly stated by the terms of the contract.
As a best practice, when you write the contract, make clear the fact that you don't offer CMS like integration and that the product/service doesn't come with a FREE/Included "content update/modification" service.

Now, what else you should pay attention to is not to write contradictory contractual terms.
In many countries it is mandatory to offer a money back guaranty, technical assistance that covers errors of which you are responsible and so one.

My advice to you:

  1. Explain to your clients (and make sure they understend your message) that you don't offer "like CMS integration" and that the maintenance/assistance are services you sell separately.
  2. When you write the contract, offer a Guaranty period (that includes FREE maintenance/assistance) and state that after that, this services are possible only by means of a new contract.

I do this all the time.

I made the mistake of providing hosting/domain services for a couple clients a few years ago. It was a nightmare and I won't do it again.

While a perfectly valid revenue stream, I do not want to be "IT Support" for my clients. That means I don't resell/offer hosting. I don't maintain various CMS packages for clients, etc. It's just not my business model. I'm a designer and as soon as other services are offered clients start calling with email problems or "Can you add this plug in to Wordpress?", etc. That's just not something I choose to take on. The residual income from such maintenance is nice but I just don't have the resources to concern myself with the ever-changing desires of every client I have. I also generally work on larger projects and can not devote a few hours a day to updates and maintenance that happen to pop up way more often when there's an ongoing maintenance fee.

If a client needs hosting/domain services I point them to a company I like to use. Explain what is needed (with a direct link) and ask that they sign up for hosting/domains then simply forward the "Welcome" email they receive to me so I can have access. I explain that this puts control over the hosting and domains in their hands not mine. So that they get notified or renewal times and can be free to renew services for the periods they wish, move services whenever they like, and don't have to worry about their web site begin held "hostage".

I sell the design services not ongoing web maintenance. This includes design and implementation of the initial web site for a quoted fee. I upload pages to their hosting account and then the project is complete. I offer a grace period (based on the size of the site) for any corrections or issues with the primary design. After that.....

Any future updates are billed on an as needed, hourly, basis. This includes adding pages, changing images, adjusting text, etc. The client contacts me with "I'd like to ..... to the web site." I write up an estimate for that work and get approval. Then schedule the work. I find any retainer or maintenance fee being paid by the client results in regular, constant, demands from the client - after all, if they are paying for it they'll use it, naturally.

I actually find many clients like the fact that there is no ongoing retainer needed and they can simply pay for changes when they need them. This also ensures clients think more about changes and plan ahead before asking for them.

When quoting the initial design, I clearly explain to clients that the files are built using HTML5/CSS/PHP etc as needed and that anyone with that knowledge is capable of making changes int eh future. In addition to the fact that I'm perfectly happy to make changes and updates at a later time which are billed at X/hour.


You could have separate terms and fees for the designing/development, hosting, and updating/management.

  • Most likely, you'll charge once for a specific design.
  • Typically, you'll charge monthly or yearly for the hosting and domain name.
  • Updates and management could be also on a monthly or yearly basis, depending on the estimated workload. In that case, don't forget to include a clause about the maximum amount of work included. Either that, or you can charge update by the hour or block of hours.

In your terms, be certain to specify what kind of work constitutes an "update". If changes are too significant, you may want to consider that as a new project altogether.


Personally I recommend WordPress for those who don`t have any technical knowledge about website. If you want there are various companies who can design custom CMS for you. They are easy to use even if you are unable to perform any technical action.

  • This doesn't provide a valid answer to the question. The OP has specifically mentioned that he cannot use a CMS solution. – Canadian Luke Jun 1 '14 at 5:07

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