Picture this: The web company you’ve worked with for the last five years has suddenly gone out of business. You’ve called and emailed them repeatedly and you are unable to get a response. You desperately need to log into your website but your username and password don’t seem to be working. Frantically, you’re trying to find someone else to help you only to discover that you don’t even own your own website.
That’s right, your domain and hosting are all owned by the web company you hired and your hands are tied.
Scary to imagine this isn’t it?
This happens, and it happens more than you realize. Today’s post will show you exactly how your website needs to be set up so you are complete control of your online assets in the event that something goes sideways.
You never know what could go wrong.
Your web company could shut down, your main point of contact suddenly skips town, your relationship goes sideways or heaven forbid a loss of life.
You don’t plan for this to happen but if it does…
Understanding what goes on with your website is super important.
It’s easy to get lost in the terminology and want to hand the stuff you don’t understand over to someone else. Stop doing this. You’re the CEO of your business. Don’t let that stuff scare you away from learning what you need to know.
1. Own Your own Domain
If you hire a web person and ask them to buy your domain, you need to transfer the ownership of that domain back to you. No one but you should have ownership of your domain. If your web person owns your domain, then it is their domain, not yours. This is a common mistake business owners make because it is easier to ask someone else to take care of this for you. When you do this, you are essentially giving someone complete power over your domain and that is a risky situation to put yourself in long term.
2. Own Your own Hosting
Similar to owning your domain, you should also own your own hosting. If your web person sets your website up on their hosting account, and for some reason, you wish to switch web companies, there is a very good chance that they won’t allow your new company to have access to your hosting. Many web companies set up hosting on their servers and park all of their client’s websites there. By doing that, they can collect hosting fees on an annual basis.
While it’s a great revenue stream for them (and super convenient for you), it’s a problem the moment you want to make changes. What could end up happening is that they can actually deny you access to make changes. Things like files, website updates or databases all are under the control or your web person. They have ultimate control over the entirety of your website content, so much so that they could lock you out even if you have your own login.
3. Require a Development Site
When working with a web design company, they should build your website on a development site or on a subdomain on your website so that the work is not happening directly on the domain it will end up on. Once the website development work is complete, you can then upload or transfer the files directly to your hosting service on the domain of your choice. When you allow someone to build the site on your primary domain and hosting, you run the risk of something going wrong and losing the existing site that you have set up.
Your web company should be able to show you the work they are doing real time via this development site or via the sub-domain on your website. That allows you (the client), the ability to monitor and give feedback as your site is being built. This live environment works significantly better than just seeing PDF formats of what your site will eventually look like. It allows you to click, navigate, view and experience what a visitor to your website will see.
4. Set Clear Expectations
Web companies get a bad reputation when they fail to meet deadlines. While I feel for the client, often those deadlines are not met because the web team didn’t have the content they needed to move forward.
When you are working with a company, I recommend you pay 50% up front. Then at completion, you pay the rest of the balance. That way you work together to map out responsibilities and timelines for each person. Usually, it is the client’s responsibility to provide the content and the web company’s to create the design. Work in partnership, not in isolation. When my web guy and I work on projects, we meet weekly until the project is complete.
5. Own your assets
If you have logos, images, and graphics that have been designed for you by your web company, make sure you own them. There is nothing worse than changing web providers and not having access to all of those items. Ensure that the standard is high-resolution logos, and stock images purchased to be saved in a folder that you own and can access anytime you need.
6. Have Maintenance Set Up
You need a web master who can back up your website on a regular basis and ensure that updates are done when they need to be done. It’s not as simple as pressing the “update WordPress now” button. You need to ensure that your theme and your plugins are compatible with the newest WordPress update. You don’t want to break anything by updating your site. The best way to do this is to work with a professional who understands what to do, knows how to re-install a backup if something goes wrong. Don’t let them leave you sitting on WordPress 2.0.0 for years to come.
7. Know Your Business Strategy
Your website should be a reflection of your business strategy. If you don’t have clarity on your business strategy and know what your goals and objectives are, it will be difficult for any web company to do a good job. In many cases, clients tell me that they will work with me on strategy after their website is done. That’s a mistake that always ends up costing them money. Your strategy should drive the structure, look and feel, and content that goes into your website. If you can’t clearly define your business your developer won’t be able to either.
Already got these things covered? Great! If you’re shaking your head saying “No Lisa!! I don’t know what to do now!” Don’t panic. Talk to your web developer and discuss the options moving forward. You can write this list out in your own words and come to a conclusion as to how to proceed.
Leave me a comment and let me know, have you struggled with your website in the past? What are the tips you’ve learned along the way in regards to website development and maintenance?