I’m not sure I’ve ever actually used the word “swindled” before, but it popped into my mind when I was writing the headline for this post, so I thought I’d go with it. It sounds a little silly or outdated, but somehow it also sounds worse than “cheated”. And I’m very angry right now. Allow me to explain…
I registered my first domain name back in 1999 and set up my first website the same year, with some help from a graphic designer friend. Ever since then, I’ve always worked closely with a web developer to set up my websites. I’ve always registered my own domains by myself using GoDaddy, and I’ve always had access to my own sites to update things, whether it’s in WordPress, or Dreamweaver, or in FrontPage (anyone remember that?). I taught myself how to do this. Once I had the site set up by a professional, it was important to me to be able to make minor changes whenever I wanted to.
I recognize that not everyone has had such hands-on experience with websites, and that many people are just now embarking on the process of having their first website set up. (Exciting!) I just heard from one of the people on my social media course regarding some issues with a web developer, and I am still fuming over this company’s totally unethical practices. I thought I’d outline them here to help others avoid getting caught in a similar situation, because it really makes me angry to see businesses taking advantage of clients.
Here are six things to pay attention to when setting up your first website:
- Ease of use: Your website should be created using a content management system (CMS) that you can easily learn to manage yourself. I always recommend WordPress. It’s so fantastic for many reasons that I won’t get into right now, but in summary: it’s free, it’s great for search engine optimization (SEO), it’s got loads of different plugins to add any kind of function you can imagine, and it’s easy to learn to use. I love WordPress. Period.
- Easy access: Your website developer should always give you access to your own website. It’s your website: you’ve paid for it, haven’t you? You need access to it. If the site is done in WordPress, there’s not much you can “mess up”. And if you do “mess something up”, you can get assistance from the web developer and chalk it up as a learning experience.
- One place: Your blog should be in the same place as your website. None of this “your website on your domain, and your blog somewhere else” setup. If your site is done in WordPress, it’s easy to have your website and your blog all on the same place: WordPress is the most popular blogging tool out there.
- Register it yourself: You should register your own domains, in your name. I have used GoDaddy for years and I’m very happy with them. You can always give your web developer access to update the domain name servers (DNS) or anything else to do with the domains, so that’s no excuse for the developer to register the domains. The domains should always be registered in your name. Again, they’re yours.
- Keep it simple: Don’t get involved in complicated contracts that lock you into months of website maintenance. Agree on a price for the site, with all of the functions that you need to start out with. Try to plan ahead for the next six months or so and make sure that you’ve informed your developer of everything that you need your site to do. If your site is done in WordPress, you’ll be able to make adjustments with the copy, and you’ll be able to blog on your own. You can always agree on a fixed rate for any changes down the road.
- Arrange hosting: Avoid hosting contracts that lock you into service with your web developer. If something goes wrong with the relationship, that person will have full control over your site, and I’ve heard of that happening more than once. Arrange your own hosting through a company such as BlueHost (highly recommended for working with WordPress sites), which has hosting options starting at $4.95 a month. Give your developer the access needed to set up the site on your hosting, but arrange for hosting yourself.
Do you see what I’m getting at? It can be a bit daunting to start out doing something new, and if you’ve never had a website before, then it can seem a bit complex. But it’s easy to set up on your own and to give your developer access to what they need. Remember to get everything in your name (domain registration, hosting), and don’t rely on the developer to do it.
The more you learn, the more power you have. And this is your business, isn’t it? Part of owning your own business (and yes, your books are a business) is learning new things so that you can responsibly manage things yourself. Outsourcing is great, and it’s an important part of doing business, but you need to outsource responsibly. You can’t just hand it all over to someone else and then stick your head in the sand.
Have you ever been “swindled” by a web developer? (That word just made me smile, so maybe I’m cooling off now.) Have you ever had difficulties taking over control of a website that someone else set up for you? Share in the comments.