Does Your Web Designer Own YOU?

For the sake of convenience, many small business owners want to have as little to do with their websites as possible. They will pay someone else to register the domain, host the website, and maintain it.

Then they will simply pay their monthly fee, and forget about it.

lisech, marketing strategy, consulting, web design, web designers(All while the web design company keeps collecting recurring revenue from more and more clients)

But while that is an incredibly convenient option, it also means that you do not control your most valuable online asset – your own branded website.

You may be thinking: “so what?”…

From a business perspective, it is good to delegate. It is good to let someone else spend the time on doing something you are not good at, or which costs less per hour than you are worth.

But when you give that person total control over an asset, you may be placing yourself in a very difficult position…

Because if you want to leave them for whatever reason, you can find yourself in a very difficult situation indeed. Not only can your designer charge a “termination fee” (read: extortion fee) at their own discretion, but even if they agree to let you go, you could still be in for some expensive problems at a later stage.

Here are 5 ways in which your web designer can own you:

1. The web designer owns your domain:

If you asked your web designer or developer to register the domain for your website, they could make it very difficult for you if you want to stop using their services. Yes, you could take them to court to make them surrender the domain, but aside from costing a lot of money, it also takes time – time during which your website could be off the air.

If you don’t own your domain, you cannot even have a new website built without registering a new domain – and since your domain is already registered, it might not be possible to find a suitable one any more.

2. Your web designer controls the hosting:

As long as your web designer controls your hosting, even if you control the domain, they decide what happens on your website. Not to mention that, if you decide to leave, you will need someone with specialized knowledge to move the website somewhere else.

That is, IF your designer is willing to provide you with the necessary backup files so that you can recreate the installation elsewhere. If not, you could be facing a complete rebuild from scratch. That means not only substantial additional costs, but it also means downtime while the site is being rebuilt.

3. You are locked into a service contract:

A few years ago, a former client approached a professional web design company. She wanted her website – which was bringing in customers just fine – to look better. And it did.

Unfortunately, a few things happened:

a. When they rebuilt the website, no search engine optimization was done.

b. No social media optimization was done.

c. They used a “heavy” design – lots of scripting running in the background, and lots of graphics. it slowed her website down.

d. Since she was locked into a contract for the next 3 years, she couldn’t do anything about it unless she paid for (their) search engine- and social media optimization services, and she had no way of speeding up the website again.

Eventually, buying her website out of the contract cost her almost double as much as the website itself cost her. And after that was done – of course – she came back. She needed help with fixing the site.

If you are stuck in a service contract around your website, and someone else has control over the domain and/or hosting, you have very little recourse if you are unhappy with their services.

4. Some web designers use expensive specialized software:

Most web designers use WordPress to build their websites on. In fact, almost half of all websites on the internet run on WordPress.

However, many professional web designers use specialized software like Dreamweaver. Those are not cheap, and they come with a learning curve. So if you want to walk away from your web design company, you need to either find someone who has – and knows – the same software, or you have to rebuild from scratch.

Other designers use software like WebFlow – and even Wix – both of which come at a monthly fee. And if they control the access to that software, getting access without their cooperation could prove futile.

5. Expensive WordPress themes and plugins:

From a business perspective, it makes sense for web designers to do what they do: They buy developer licenses for a variety of plugins and themes (templates) that help them to create good-looking websites.

After all, they know that for you as a business owner with no technical knowledge, appearance is everything.

But what happens if you walk away from your website’s service provider, and you cannot find someone who has access to the same set of plugins and themes?

Well, these licenses have to be renewed annually. Without renewing them, you have no idea when something on your website will simply stop working. It could happen with any WordPress platform update – which happens every month or two.

A former client (now retired) ran into that problem. Some time after she left her web design company due to pathetic service, some things on her website stopped working after a regular WordPress update. She ended up spending around $200 just on annual plugin fees, plus the cost of redesigning the website (because the theme/template that was used in the past, was no longer updated – and it was no longer compatible with the current version of WordPress).

In conclusion:

Websites cost money. Not only in terms of the original design fee, but over time most people add pages, start a blog, and make improvements to the text and the appearance.

Your website is the hub of your online presence. It is what people find when they search for your brand name to see if you are legitimate.

Do you really want to give total control of your most important business asset to someone who, despite possibly not delivering on your needs and requirements, is able to cost you a boatload of money if you choose to walk away from them?

Let’s not even talk about what happens if the design company goes out of business, or if something happens to the owner.

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of risk. Risk needs to be managed – not delegated.