Does your web design company own you?

When it comes to your website, do you own it or does your web design company? Before you answer, make sure you check. In the “How to plan a website” series, we covered “Own it“. We talk about owning your domain name and the Intellectual Property that your website is built on, but there is more you need to look at.

Here is a list of 3 things you need to make sure you have 100% ownership of when it comes to your website.

  • Domain name
    Yes, this has been covered this before but it is one of the most common mistakes companies make when building their website. Register your own domain name. If you don’t know how, ask someone. If you still can’t get help, write me and I’ll show you how. It is not difficult but it will save you a lot of aggravation down the road.
  • Hosting agreement
    Don’t let your web design company select your web host, be involved in the process. Many web design firms also “do hosting”. This usually involves getting an agency account at a hosting company and selling the hosting company’s services. This means you are not the hosting company’s client, they are. The hosting company doesn’t know you and probably doesn’t care about you.If your web design company is skilled enough to have their own system administrator (SysAdmin) on staff, someone responsible 24x7x365 for your website then it may be acceptable to host with them. In any case, make sure you have full access to the application, source code and database in case you want to move it one day.
  • Supplemental services
    Most modern-day website use services not developed specifically for them. These “3rd Party Services” usually require you to register with them first to be able to use them. Anything registered for your site should be registered by you. Whether it is an API, Google Analytics, Twitter or Facebook, you should own all the accounts it takes to operate your website.

    • APIS
      Application Programming Interfaces are how developers hook to systems together. These usually have accounts with them and “API Keys”, tokens that when presented, give your website permission to use the API. Make sure the accounts for your website are registered in your name and with your email address. If there is a fee to be paid, pay it using your credit card instead of letting your web design company pay it and just roll it into your bill.
    • Google Analytics
      Another common mistake people make is to allow your web design company to put your Google Analytics in their account and then simply give you access. The way Google has setup their analytics package, each domain can have multiple owners. It is fine for your web development company to be one of the owners so they can manage it for you. However, make sure that your account is an owner as well.
    • Twitter
      Register your own Twitter account, always. If your business depends heavily on social media then Twitter is part of your life-blood. If your web design company needs access to it, use a service like that allows you to share it with them without giving them the login and password.
    • Facebook
      Most companies dealing with the general public will have a Facebook page. Make sure that if you need one you set it up. Facebook allows you to add administrators to your page. Give your web design company access to your page so that they can set it up and help you manage it but to not let them own it.

This has nothing to do with hating on web design companies. I’ve owned a web design company since 1998. I know how much a good web design company can help you get what you want from your website. Even the best companies make some of these mistakes though. (To be fair, mostly out of convenience and not malice.) It is your responsibility to pay attention to these details.

When the last bill is paid, make sure you really own your website.



Want more helpful advice?

Are you looking for more helpful advice? Check out our book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo. It was written to help non-programmers understand website development. It shows you how to get the website you want.

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