In the past three years, I’ve never met a client that can answer all five of these questions. Not knowing the answers has left them at risk of losing access to their accounts. For a few, not knowing has left them unable to hire new developers.
I’ve worked with a non-profit that had to wait weeks for us to get access to their website — the original web developer was the only one who had password information for their WordPress account.
We’ve worked with business owners going through a messy break up with their SEO company. Which meant walking them through changing passwords and removing accounts.
And my least favourite experience, we’ve consulted with clients that hate their website so much they can’t look at it. But without login information, they’re unable to hire new designers.
Being too trusting and not asking the right questions is going to come back to bite you. So before you allow someone to handle your web presence – make sure you can answer these five questions with confidence.
Do you own your domain?
🙏 Please, please, please. Buy your own domain name.
Yes, getting your developer to purchase the name on your behalf is convenient. But in a world where anybody can call themselves a web designer, it’s safer to avoid messy repercussions.
Whoever buys and registers a domain owns it — I highly recommend that person be you.
As long as you own your domain name and retain control of it, you have the ability to create a new site and get a new hosting provider. I hope you never have to implement this scorched earth policy. But I promise you, it’s better than your web developer replacing your website with hot singles in your area because you fired them.
If the name has already been purchased by your developer your limited options include:
- Asking your developer for an account so you can access and change the domain settings with the registrar
- Trying to buy the domain from your developer
- If your domain is being held hostage, buying a new one and starting over
- Consulting a lawyer
Do You Know Where Your Site Lives?
In an ideal world, everyone would sign up for their own hosting. However, I know that isn’t always realistic. If you’re a business owner and/or aren’t technically inclined, you may not want to waste time personally setting up your site.
However, if you ever do lose control of your site, owning your hosting account allows you to contact your web host and get your password changed.
Whether you decide to host with your developer or shop for hosting yourself, make sure you will have access to your account after launch day.
Are you the Administrator for your CMS account?
Once a website is up and running, editing the content and adding new posts is easy enough to do. However, in order to edit the content stored in a CMS, it’s important that you know how to access the login panel.
Make sure you understand how to log into your CMS panel and how to add and remove users. Knowing these two things will give you the freedom to hire new creatives without losing control of your content.
Pro Tip: If you don’t know whether or not your developer built your website using a CMS, use BuiltWith to find out.
Do you own your data?
If you’re using a service like Google Analytics or Monster Insights, it’s important to know how to access it. Analytics software provides valuable insights that help shape your marketing strategy. But once the account has been deleted, all that priceless data is gone forever.
If the account has been registered in your name make sure you know how to access it. If the account has been created with your marketing agency, request the data be regularly exported.
Every major analytics tool lets you export reports in PDF or Excel format. You can even schedule these reports to be generated automatically and received via e-mail.
Ensuring you receive regular reports allows you to keep backups of important data in the event of accidental deletions or loss of access.
Do you know how to remove access to your website once the job is done?
CMS and web hosting dashboards will often give you the ability to add and remove users. It’s important to understand that if you don’t have to you shouldn’t be giving administrator account information to temporary or part-time contractors.
Knowing the passwords to your accounts and how to manage users is the bare minimum when it comes to protecting your website and your content.
If you learn nothing else today, make sure you know how to access your accounts and who owns them. If the relationship ends, or your developer is MIA and you need something done quickly, you’ll have options.