Should a web designer offer hosting services?

September 13, 2017

Recently, I saw this question on Quora and I thought it was pretty interesting that someone would ask about hosting services. Interesting because we are in an age where digital professionals are being told to specialize. Either you’re front-end, or back-end. Specialize to be the best with the skills that you have, and let others be the best with the skills that they have.

As I’ve grown as a web designer - hosting was one of the services that I provided. When I started out, providing hosting services was part of the package. It was part of what I did as a web designer. If I was honest with myself, it was because I was scared to lose a potential client so I would throw in services such as hosting. The potential client would ask me, “Do you handle hosting?” And I would say, “Of course! I’m a web professional.” Thinking the whole time, “how am I going to figure out hosting without screwing this whole thing up.” I was worried about all of the wrong things. I wasn’t worried about not knowing much of anything about hosting, but rather how I would get the potential client to sign the dotted line.

The answer

To save you from all of the rigmarole and long article, the answer is… drum roll, please…

Just be a web designer. Leave the hosting to hosting providers. Direct your clients in the right direction to the best web hosting services, set them up with the best company, and if there are any issues — it will be with the web hosting service. They will handle the billing, they will handle the servers, they will handle your client if things go south, and it won’t reflect the high quality service that you provide.

Yes, many web designers talk about the large amount of money that you can make from monthly web hosting services, but think about the headache that you will have for this monthly service. If things go south — your client calls you at two in the morning.

Just say no.

Previously, I worked with a hosting provider that had a proven track record and had done very well for me for many years. Then, they had an issue where one of the servers went down and they were unable to get that server working again, and I had many clients on that server that were down for way too long. Because I charged my client for the hosting services, the client contacted me. They didn’t contact the hosting provider. They contacted me. It was on me to make sure that things worked. So I spent the remainder of my evening, until two in the morning, trying to provide a solution which ultimately was moving all of my client’s files to another host provider and updating the DNS records.

But if you want to, here are some options

If you’re still convinced that adding web hosting services to the package of services that you provide, then I have the best options for you.

The top 3 options are Github Pages, Amazon S3 and Webflow Hosting. Each of these options have their own particular features that make them stand out. I’ve used each of them, but I lean towards one —Webflow Hosting. 

Before I get into why Webflow Hosting is the best option, I’ll tell you about the other two and what makes them stand out above any other option that I could have written about.

Just be a web designer. Leave the hosting to hosting providers.

Github Pages

The top feature of Github Pages is that it is free.

Github Pages was designed to host personal organization, or project pages, directly from a Github repository. I have personally used Github Pages in the past for my portfolio site and here recently for very very small projects where the client doesn’t have many users visiting the website and there is no sensitive transactions occurring. Let me be clear, Github Pages should not be used for sensitive transactions like sending passwords or credit card numbers.

Now, there are some usage limits. Published GitHub Pages sites may be no larger than one gigabyte, have a soft bandwidth limit of 100 gigabytes per month and  sites have a soft limit of 10 builds per hour. To keep all these limits low, I suggest using a content distribution network (CDN) like Cloudflare.

One highlight feature is being able to have a custom domain name pointing directly to your github repository.

Github Pages is a great solution for very small projects. Projects that won’t have a lot of users visiting the site, and sensitive information won’t be passed from users through the website. Did I mention that it’s free.

Amazon S3

The top feature of Amazon S3 is its cloud storage. It gives anyone access to the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, inexpensive data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. The service aims to maximize benefits of scale and to pass those benefits on to developers.

Amazon S3 is perfect for any client that doesn’t have a large amount of users coming to the website but still need some of the security that Amazon S3 provides. It’s perfect! You get all of the high end options that a great web hosting service provides, but you don’t get the large cost. Sometimes you can end up paying just 5 to 6 dollars a month for hosting if the number of users is low enough. 

Quick anecdote :  I know of a developer who paid just sixty-three cents per month for hosting for a 78,000 page views with around 150000 requests over 30 days. It’s so cheap, it’s practically free.

I’ve used each of them, but I lean towards one — Webflow Hosting.

Webflow Hosting

The best for last — Webflow Hosting. 

I’m biased as I love using Webflow. Webflow has made my workflow so much more easier as I am able to quickly get a website up and onto the web without having any major issues, and I can extend the functionality of my website with only my creativity holding me back. So let’s get into why I think Webflow Hosting is the best option.

  1. Webflow handles hosting for IDEO, Khan Academy, HelloSign and many others. These are some impressive clients to have.
  2. Their infrastructure is world-class and scalable with over a 100+ datacenters and servers worldwide. When you publish with Webflow, your files are distributed across the globe via a CDN powered by Fastly and Amazon CloudFront which means fast page load times for all your visitors no matter where they come from.
  3. With the Webflow Editor, you can create and edit content right on your page, so there’s no need to navigate a messy backend content management system. Once you’re happy with the changes, you can publish them to the site with the click of a button. This feature is great on the client side. Super easy editor to teach clients how to use. If they can fill out a Facebook profile they can do this.
  4. Plus, you get an SSL certificate for every site providing the security and SEO benefits that today’s site owners expect.
  5. Last but not least, your Webflow site is HTTP/2 compliant. Immediately complaint with the new HTTP/2 standards ensuring your site loads as quick as possible.
Write and edit — right on your site

One of the highlight features of hosting through Webflow is that you can set up automated client billing and add an additional amount on top of the hosting fee of Webflow to make a little extra every month. 

You can learn more about hosting with Webflow at https://webflow.com/hosting

The answer with the caveat

Yes, there’s a caveat — you have to use Webflow, but the caveat is a huge advantage. With Webflow you get super fast page load times, enhance security, immediate scaling, ability to upload custom fonts, global color swatches, interactions and animations, password protection, backup and versioning, plus forms and notifications.

Now, I’m not in any way paid by Webflow. I’m not an employee. I’m just a huge Stan. Webflow has greatly changed my life and I want to share that life-changing feeling with other web designers and developers.

If you have any questions you think I can help with, please ask. Reach out. I will be happy to help. I’m always on the Webflow forums and I would love to hear from you.