Website Owners…Do You Know If You Do?

 by Bj. de Castro, Artist and SEO Webmaster

 Bj. just saw a thief on t.v. – beware site owners!

O.k.  I walk out of my office and into the kitchen where my wonderful newly retired husband has just made me lunch.  We sit down together on the sofa and click on the ol’ plasma for some entertainment.  We find a brand new court show.  Um..we can never get enough of those.  It’s just like watching reality boxing without any physical contact, LOL.

However and to my horror…I discover the defendant is this wonderful lady that owns a flower shop and trusts the wrong person – VERY wrong person, to do her site for her…a toby something.  It all broke my heart.

NEVER, EVER should your webmaster own your domain name!  It is legally yours and yours only.  Make sure it is licensed in your name and NOT the person doing your site!  If you suspect they are not being honest…do a search for WHOIS and look up the domain name registration information for your site.  YOUR name should be listed with all of your contact information.
a-Owner should be you.
b-Admin can be you or your webmaster
c-Tech can be you or your webmaster

ALWAYS make sure your website is set under your own account and that you have the login and password information.  You can either setup another user account for your website person or give them your login information.  But always make sure you have control over ‘permissions’.  This allows you to fire, hire or do whatever you want with control of your site.  And it is YOUR site.  I set all my clients up at Dreamhost and give them all the account info.  Then the accounts are set with access privledges and permissions to my own account, so I can view the working files.

Your designer may, or may not, own the rights to the design – depending on the agreement you have and the copyright permissions given.  Always make sure you discuss this and have it stated on the bottom of the page.  One page or every page is often debated, but all of my clients have it on every single page.  Why?  After the pages of a site are spidered through all of the search engines, one click by the visitor will take them to that page only.   When it comes to images and content…we want the message loud and clear right away.  Hiding the copyright on some obsure page called ‘legals’ that no one is going to click on is fruitless.

Trust is a beautiful thing and I am honored to have the trust of my clients.  However…I have all of their accounts set up like this.  If any of them wake up one day and decide they don’t like the color of my eyes all of the sudden…they can instantly lock me out of their site forever!

There are some server programs that Templates are more appropriate for…like, blogs, CMS, etc.   CMS programs can be expensive to setup, install and customize.  Most designers will use a template as a starting point and tweak them for the client’s own look and feel.  However, when it comes to straight .html, you should know what you are paying for.  If you are being charged for a custom design, then you should not be getting a template that your web designer has purchased.  On the other hand, perhaps saving money is more important to you than having a one-of-a-kind, original website.  Template use could save you money.  Economics is a reality…just know what you are paying for.

Blog Sites – the new shortcut.  Now before all you other webmasters start pounding me on this one…I DO see the need and advantages to these sites.  To all website owners – make sure you have a ‘blog website’ because you asked for it. 

Please Explain Bj.:  The new trend in web design is hacking to death the popular WordPress (the one here) blog program to make it look like a regular ‘original’ website. Now for the un-ethical web-worker, they can put together a complete site in no time at all and then…turn around and charge the new client for a hand-coded website.  

While the ‘ethical’ webdesigner, will know all of the advantages, which can be HUGE with the new Windows Vista coming out …and they will have explained all of it to their client.   They will have also touted the ability for the owner to do their own content updates.  A blog is, afterall, a short-hand version of the larger and more complicated CMS website, which stands for Content Management System.  These larger sites have great gobs of content that…you got it…need to be managed, or organized.  I am not recommending a blog website (the website IS the blog), but I am recommending that every site have one…a RSS enabled blog.

Know the difference between a Webmaster, Web designer, SEO Specialist and Website Marketing Specialist (There are many other acronyms, as well, with different specific talents.)  Just because someone designs sites doesn’t mean they know optimization or marketing. Let me share an analogy that I recently gave one of my clients:  You can own the most beautiful painting in the world – but if you shove it in a closet and never take it out…neither you, or anyone else, will ever be able to appreciate it.    

A ‘Webmaster’ is a person that holds all of these skills.  A single webmaster is usually suffice for individual or small business websites.  However and sadly, there are few web-workers out there that know the difference.  Make sure your web person does – or hire an additional specialist.  If, however, you are a relatively large company…you should have separate individuals working in their own specific fields of specialty for this is a super-duper fast-paced, ever-changing business.  Many of these jobs are extremely time-consuming (which means expensive) even with the latest and greatest technologies.

O.k. Bj….I hung in there with you.  Now why would someone be so sneaky in the first place?  Well…what do you think?  It’s a lot of things like lazyness, lack of self-confidence in the job they can do, poor business management skills – but more to the point, they are using control for greed.  See…if the domain name is placed in their name, then they can hold it hostage for hire.   I’ve heard all the excuses. 

Truth is, there are many ways to ‘get paid for your work’ with basic client budgetary management.  A good web company will have one or several levels of payment and performance policies.  For example, money in advance, work up to, files go live after payment, etc., etc. – with all work stopping, until conditions are met.  No company operates with zero loss.  It is part of doing business.  Good business practices involve controling loss…not your client’s business.  Web companies that do a good job and keep within these budgets…get paid by their clients without the need of tricks.

It is the same with the server account – only that gets more scary!  What they will often do now, is buy large lots of server space (all under their own account on the server) and then re-sell them to the unsuspecting clients.  *Note here:  I know many, many companies that do this legit and there is nothing wrong with that if it is represented as part of the business…web hosting, etc.

What happens in the end, is the client becomes unhappy one day with the service and discovers that he/she owns nothing!  Or, they own only the domain name.  Or, they own it all, but it is being held in ransom on the web-worker’s own server.  Yes.  It is all very scary stuff!  More importantly, it can be a very costly lesson to learn, when you discover that you must start all over again reinvesting money already spent!

In fact, this is where a large portion of my first clients came from…these last very sad scenarios.  Happily, I was able to get all of their websites back for them.

There are some times in life that you simply must place trust in the hands of another person, i.e., doctors, lawyers, etc.   This does not mean you are immune to satisfying a few intellectual requirements.  School yourself in what you are buying.  It makes the same sense as preparing yourself to buy a car with Kelly Bluebook prices and a mechanic in tow.

Best of luck and please be careful.
Bj. de Castro – Artist & Webmaster

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