Are you locked out of your own website? Did you sign a contract without really reading it and now you have to spend a fortune just to update your website? Did you pay for a website to be built and now it hasn’t been updated in forever? Were you unaware you could be locked out of your own website?
We are continually surprised by how many referral clients we get who have been locked out of their own website by another digital firm. Our first work for them typically involves digging them out of the contract they signed that granted the firm unfettered access to their website, and no access to members of their own organization!
If you’re not sure how to get out of such an agreement, or want to make sure you don’t get stuck in one, read on to learn how to avoid getting locked out of your own website.
How Do You Get Locked Out of Your Own Website?
In our experience, there are two ways small business owners and non-profit managers get locked out of their own websites:
- They sign a service contract with a web designer that forces them to pay for each revision to their website
- They don’t learn the necessary skills to maintain their own website, and are unable to update it themselves
Sometimes web designers will simply build you a static website from these languages, however, meaning there will be no way for you to update the website unless you are familiar with the languages. You probably already see the problem with going this route: if you knew how to design a website, you probably wouldn’t have gone to a web designer in the first place.
This is why you almost always want a website that is built from a CMS. Websites built from CMS’s are cheaper, easier to maintain, and harder to lock you out of, which is why we only build WordPress websites for our clients. Unless you have a very good reason to buy a from-scratch website, go with a CMS.
Whether you are completely unfamiliar with how modern website-building technologies work, or ‘know enough to be dangerous’ but are still concerned by the contract you may have signed with a firm, there are things you can do to avoid getting locked out of your own website.
Talk About Maintenance Before You Sign the Contract
The fine print of web design contracts often contains information about “maintenance.” Maintenance is an umbrella term for all the things that will happen after your website is built. They include:
- Upgrading your website’s CMS
- Adding new content and deleting outdated content
- Adding new visual elements like logos, color schemes, and layouts
- Sharing content to social media
- Maintaining a presence in search engines
You should start a conversation with any web design firm by discussing how you will accomplish these activities once your website is launched.
Make Sure You Have Access to Your Website
The next thing you should look for is whether or not you have full access to your website. Many web designers will create backdoors into their client’s websites so they can do routine maintenance for them. Sometimes, however, they will also give their clients limited access to their own site for fear they might do something to negatively affect the site, or in order to charge them more for maintenance.
You should ask your web designer:
- Who will have access to your website once it is launched and why
- Whether or not you and other members of your organization will have full access to your website, including access to its source code
Many web designers will assume, by default, that you don’t want to do anything on your own. If this isn’t the case, you need to make that clear up front.
Figure Out Who’s Going to Update Your Website Before It Launches
Finally, you should also figure out what percentage of maintenance tasks members of your organization are willing and able to do. Sometimes it’s perfectly appropriate to turn over all maintenance tasks to your web designer. Often there’s a shared level of responsibility, however: the designer will take care of the more technical details (i.e. upgrading your website’s CMS), and your organization will be responsible for blogging and other content-focused elements of your site.
To make sure you negotiate a maintenance contract that works for you, be sure to discuss:
- Who will be responsible for each maintenance task
- Whether any members of your organization require training in order to accomplish their share of the work
Most web design firms offer basic training in popular CMSs. We train all our clients in how to maintain their WordPress websites, for example, and even offer advanced training if they want to take on more of the maintenance responsibilities.
Websites Are Like Gardens: They Need Room to Grow
The main thing you should take from this post is that a static website is a dead website. Whether you haven’t updated your website in a long time because of a contract problem with a web designer, lack of training, or lack of time, modern websites need to be updated regularly to be successful. From your presence on search engines to the expectations of today’s website visitors, there are many reasons not to get locked out of your own website. Make sure you’re prepared before your site launches to avoid difficulty down the road.