Over the years, I have heard many stories of small business owners who have had their website held hostage. They entrusted a web designer to create a website depicting their brand and they ended up not completing the job. When attempts were made to reach the designer, there was no response, or no cooperation. When asked to have access to all information pertaining to the website, the client was denied.
If you sign a contract, which I recommend, thoroughly review what you are entitled to receive once your website is completed. Does the contract cover; creating a website and making a onetime payment? Does it come with a maintenance plan, which usually incurs a monthly or annual fee? Knowing this critical information will alleviate any futuristic pain when having to confront your web designer.
Make Sure You Have Access
Do you know the name of the company where your website theme was purchased? It should be in your name as the licensed owner, so you will be informed of updates, and can ask any questions if you need assistance.
If applicable, do you have the name of the hosting company, and do you have access to your website database? You should be given the username and password, which will enable you to make changes.
You should also have access to any software, and licensed plugins, that were used which require you to pay a fee. If you do not make payments, it will cause the purchased item to be removed or stop working.
If you are using a website builder (WIX, Weebly, Square Space, etc.) make sure you have the login and password.
To protect your password from being changed you can use a free password generator like LastPass, that encrypts passwords.
Protect your website from being held hostage by implementing these simple tips prior to getting a web designer.
If your website is already being held hostage and you want to bypass the next section, go to Own Your Website.
Purchase Your Own Domain
One way to assure you have control is to purchase the domain name yourself. DO NOT leave it up to the web designer. When you sign up for a domain you are the domain registrar and you will have full access to your account. If the designer purchases the domain name, the ownership information will be in their name.
Your domain name is the name you use for your business online. It requires an annual fee. It is different than your website. Your website is what a web designer creates. They add all the information about your business (content, pictures, shopping cart, etc.). The domain name is attached to the web site that the designer created.
I read a story of a woman who did not own her domain name and tried to get the web designer to transfer ownership to her. Unfortunately, he held her site for a huge ransom. Because of her popularity she decided to pay the ransom.
You can wind up paying a hefty price if you do not purchase your own domain name. Owning your domain name gives you the authority to take your domain name and connect it to another website if your web designer decides to go missing in action or will not relinquish your website.
Own Your Website
In the web designers contract it will sometimes state that they own the website, since it was designed by them. If this is the case, avoid using this web designer. The clause in the contract should state that you will own 100% of everything (design and content).
If you have signed a contract where the designer owns the site or will not relinquish the site, you can always screen shot your web pages and have another site redesigned. If you decide to go this route, you must be the owner of the pictures and the content. If not, you are subject to copyright laws and the web designer can take legal action.
You now must decide which web host to use (HostGator, Blue Host) or website builder (WIX, Square Space, Weebly) you want to use. A web host makes it possible for your website (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Ghost etc.) to be visible on the internet. A website builder comes with built in hosting and free themed website templates, so you will not need a separate web host.
Web Host & Website Builder
Whichever route you decide to take, you want to also purchase your web hosting or the website builder your-self. You can give the web designer your login information with an encrypted password that can be obtained from a password generator like LastPass.
Not having full access to your website to make modifications can damage the online reputation and success of your business.
Hiring someone to design your website is an important decision. Before you allow them to handle your online presence, find out if you will be the license owner of; your website design or theme, domain name, and web hosting account. If not, then choose another web designer that will allow you to have full access to your accounts.
Please share if you ever had your website held hostage and how you were able to get it back.