You’ve interviewed several firms to develop your website. You’ve picked the one that could best meet all of your business needs now and in the future. You’ve signed the contract and forked over an initial payment to get the project rolling. It’s only much later in the relationship that you discover that you missed a few things that didn’t seem important then, but are critical now.
For example, you might eventually have to go with a different web hosting provider, or change the domain registrar. You might want to abandon Drupal or Joomla in favor of WordPress. You might even need to find a different web development firm. There are lots of solid reasons for making these and other changes as the years go by, but actually implementing them can be frustrating and time consuming because…
- You don’t know where your website is currently hosted
- You don’t know where your domain name is currently registered
- You don’t know how to access the back-end of your content management system
- You don’t know how to access your social media accounts
- You don’t know where your email accounts are set up
If your web development firm has not given you this information, then you’re not in control of key business assets. You must now depend on the good will of that firm to provide all the access credentials in a timely manner.
Depending on how the developer has set things up, there may be delays and/or extra costs involved. If the developer suspects that you intend to go with a competitor, he or she may slow roll your requests for this information. Worse yet, the developer might claim ownership of your website because their proprietary software or design framework was used that you merely licensed from them.
These situations are quite common and they can take a lot of time to unravel. Meanwhile, the needs of your business are put on hold.
There is an easy remedy to prevent these issues from arising, but it requires attention to detail during the contract phase. There must be a stipulation that your business owns outright every single element that goes into building the website, including design and layout, text, images, audio, video, and apps. This applies even for development of a highly customized app and the writing of website content.
In the contract, the web developer must agree that the use of images, audio and video clips, and other content does not violate copyrights. If an allegation of copyright infringement arises, the developer must take full responsibility for resolving the issue.
Moreover, it must be stated in the contract that the developer is being hired to carry out the agreed upon plan for your website and that this arrangement does not imply ownership of anything. Further, in the event that the relationship is severed – for whatever reason – access credentials to all accounts must be relinquished immediately upon request.
This last item deserves more attention… When accounts are set up by the developer, access credentials must be copied to you immediately – not kept solely by the developer until the end of the relationship. If a developer balks at this condition, this should be grounds for discontinuing further consideration.
Another smart move would be to stipulate in the contract that a face-to-face meeting take place upon termination of the relationship so that any lingering issues can be discussed and resolved before parting ways. Waiting weeks or months to ask questions and make requests is always a bad idea. The developer my not want to devote resources to a former client.
You should expect problems like these to come up from time to time, so it is best to set up clear ground rules to preempt outcomes that may negatively impact your business and your relationships with customers.
Nathan Muller is the author of 29 technical books and over 3,000 articles that have appeared in 75 publications worldwide. He also writes articles, blogs and social media content for tech companies and their executives.