When you buy a new website, it is important to have full control of three parts. These are the keys to your home and without them, you might be limited with regard to what can and cannot be done in the future with your website. These three keys are hosting, domain and the content management systems access (because hopefully you have one).
When you buy a house you expect to get access to it, including the keys and everything to take complete ownership of the house and use it as you please. Websites are no different. Websites have three sets of “keys” that some companies don’t give to their customers. Sometimes is because of the services structure, however, most often than not, it is simply because customers don’t ask for them. For the record, in SearchEngineOp we always give you control of your website and have seen horror stories of people who are locked out of their website by their developer, specially when they loose use of their domain name and its their business name!
What are those three keys? Hosting, Domain and Content Management Systems.
Key #1. Hosting account access. Your website needs to be hosted in a server somewhere. If you buy a website and pay for your hosting, your developer should give you access to a hosting account (cpanel, plesk, or others). You may not use it, but future developers will ask for it to update, change or review your website. Without this key, you may not be able to access databases or files of your website. Of course, there are services like software-as-a-service (like leasing a store), rent-to-own (don’t get access until development is fully paid) and other similar arrangements, which we normally do not recommend unless you are planning to move your business to somewhere else pronto.
Key #2. Domain administration access. The second element of your website and a very important one is the domain. If your website’s domain is not the name of your business, then you can just get a new one. However, what about when the domain IS your business name? Your trademark name? Your product name? Your domain may or may not be managed with the same hosting account, in any case, the domain should be registered under your name and you should have access to the Domain management account. If you ever wish to change your hosting because you have a newer and better website, without the domain account you will have to get a new domain. Not good when someone else owns your business name… that is a big loss for your branding.
Key #3. Website system administrative access (content management systems). While not all websites are built using a content management system, nowadays most websites are. If you bought a website that has a system to create pages, publish them, delete them and manage the website, then you should get administrative access to your system, not just editing access. Be sure to ask if you will get this before signing any contract with any developer. If they refuse it or say they will not be using any system, run for the hills, not only are they antiquated, but you’ll be tied to that developer for every little change and that will cost you a lot of money down the road… either from that person doing the changes or because of lost business!
An additional element is open source systems versus closed source systems. If your developer has an “exclusive, proprietary” system, this means that almost no one else will be able to work with your website in the future if you decide to leave them. Open Source systems are available for free and any developer can create websites with them, this is important because it means you can choose from a wider range of programmers and designers than with closed systems and you are always free to change web people without fear of having to redevelop everything. Also, with closed source systems, be careful they are not charging you for research and development, which not only balloons your costs, it creates a business for them with your money.
Now, like a house, not all foundations are built the same. Some are strong and built to code, while others are cheap and will cost you dearly down the road… your house can come down on you! Websites are very similar. It is not a bad idea to use a “Website Inspector”, a third party that will review your website and determine what is working and what needs fixing, preferably one that gives in this review steps on how to fix the issues so you can take to your programmer of choice. SearchEngineOp.com actually provides this service, if you are interested, get one of our Website Reviews.
Be sure to get you Hosting, Domain and Content Management Systems’ access from your developer, or get ready to deal with the consequences.