Do You Own the Keys to Your Digital Business?

Your website is the face of your digital business or company. It’s where potential customers will go first, before they research other options to see if you’re worth their time and money. You can’t underestimate the power of a good website. From marketing and sales to customer communication, it’s one way your company stands out from competitors – and gets noticed by potential clients!

While some companies keep their development and management in-house, others rely on experts at agencies or even freelancers. You sign on the dotted line and hand the keys to your website over to them.

Owning the keys to your digital business though is critical when it comes to growth and the connection and engagement with your customers. You can lose and even give away these keys without even realising it; only to find that you are held to ransom or have lost your digital business altogether.

The amount of clients we have coming to us because of these unethical practices are on the rise. And we are here to share our insights on how to recognise and prevent it as much as you can. We don’t want to suggest that all developers are trying to hold your site hostage, but here are some red flags to look out for.

Do you own and control your own domain name?

It may be convenient to have your developer do this but it will be tied to their account not yours. Your domain name is a valuable asset and should be registered with the proper authority. If you don’t have access to these credentials, it may take some time before you’re able to restore ownership. You may also be able to file a claim with ICANN.

Are there hidden costs everytime you want to make an adjustment to the site?

Be on the lookout for extra fees for minor adjustments. These adjustments could be removing or uploading photos and adding or subtracting products. Bill shock is a real thing. If you are getting hit by inflated prices for minor adjustments; it’s time to find another solution.

Do you have access to your site’s content managing system (CMS)?

CMS allows you to manage the overall content on your site – from blog posts to web page design to SEO linking. Most content management systems have varied levels of access for users, ranging from admins to those with view-only credentials. It’s extremely important that at least one internal person maintains full admin access to ensure you’re left with the keys to the site’s content once you end a relationship with a developer or agency.

Team of UX designer discussing two versions of mobile device website variant at meeting for digital business

Here are three practical things you can do to reduce the risk of website hostage.

  1. Contract. Be sure that when you sign the contract there is a clause that states that you own 100% of all design, code and content. If the agency refuses to add that to a contract – or does not do written contracts, leave the meeting and come talk to us.
  2. Backup all your content on a separate drive. Even if the developer holds your website, you’ll still have the content ready to be used with someone else. Losing your digital assets, especially professional photos and blogs can be costly and time consuming to replace. So always have them backed up on a physical harddrive or on the cloud.
  3. Purchase your OWN domain name. The developer can give you advice on where to purchase the domain. But you should own it.

When Is It OK For A Developer To Keep Website Control?

The only time we would release a client’s website is when they paid us in full. We have an agreement that says no releases will be made until the final payment has been received. This makes it very clear how things stand between ourselves and our customers/clients. If you are withholding payment for a reason – then please be clear with the agency or developer as to why you are not sending that payment so they can rectify the situation.

Communication is KEY to ensuring you are happy as a client and the developer is happy as a service provider. Always have a contract sorted before work begins. That way you will know where you stand at all times.

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About Derek Lee Goodreid
Derek is a wordsmith, music artist, audio producer, coder, gamer & problem solver. Derek handles copywriting, content creation, web design, seo & digital production within the team. Derek enjoys playing guitar, singing, writing songs, coding projects, epic quests, working on writing steam punk & fantasy stories & cards against humanity with friends. You can connect with him on Linkedin or listen to him on Spotify.