In this blog, I’m going to be answering a question, what happens if my web developer gets hit by a bus? Okay so, it’s unlikely they probably are going to get hit by a bus. But interestingly, since the recession kicked in, it was one of the most commonly asked questions of me and my team, from 2007-2008 onwards.

Tip #1 – Find An Established Agency Or Freelancer

So, what happens if we go out of business? The recession put the fear in people that all of a sudden loads of established businesses were going to go down the pan. All of their assets were going to be lost. I’m going to give you a few tips on how you can mitigate those potential problems.

What does happen if your web designer gets hit by a bus or goes out of business? The first thing is due diligence. Find an established agency or freelancer to work with. One of the key things to remember is that the web design industry is totally unregulated. There’s nobody monitoring how good we are, what work we’re doing, whether we’re moral and upstanding citizens and have ethical business practices. Essentially, anyone with a laptop can buy a copy of Dreamweaver and call themselves a web designer.

This means the quality that a lot of businesses get out of their website can range from amazing to awful. You have to remember that your website is going to be a business tool. It’s going to be designed to make you money. Your website is going to sell your products and sell your services. It has to represent you really well. So do your diligence and find an agency that’s been around for a while. They should have a wide ranging portfolio of smart-looking websites and case studies that show and demonstrate where they’ve helped their clients grow their businesses through having a well-designed and developed website.

Also ask what contingency planning they have in place? When I got asked that question, it made me start to think about what server technology we were using? Were we running back-ups on a regular basis? Did we have everything stored in a central location so if, worst case were anything happened to me or my partners, that somebody knew what to do with the websites and the domains that we ran on behalf of our clients. Double-check what contingency plan your chosen web designer or agency have.

Tip #2 – Find A Reputable Hosting Provider If You Register Your Domain Yourself

It’s quite common for web designers to manage domains on their customers’ behalf. On the flip-side if they go out of business, then those domains will go too. If you manage your domains yourself, it is cheaper than paying an agency to manage them. It means you retain ownership of your collateral, your IP and your domain names. It is also possible and quite easy to transfer those domains to another provider.

There are some things to remember if you manage your own domains though. For one, don’t forget to tick the box that says auto-renew. Another is to remember to update your credit card info. If these are not done, the domain will lapse, taking down the website and the email hosting platform with it. The domain points the web traffic and the email traffic to the appropriate server. If the domain expires, you’ve got no website or email. It’s going to have a negative impact on your business and obviously isn’t going to do your reputation much good.

Tip #3 – If Your Agency Registers Your Domain Name, Ensure It’s In Your Name

If your agency does register the domain name on your behalf, make sure that the registered owner of that domain is in you. Some disreputable web designer’s register domains in their own name and then charge a bounty to the business owner to release them. This practice is not ethical and an action which should be reprimanded within our industry. Equally they might apply the same logic to things like the CMS platform that they might build for you. They’ll say that you’ve been paying for license and if you want to take it away, you got to buy the rights to use it outright.

I’ve seen unscrupulous agencies charge a bounty for releasing website files which strictly speaking the website owner already owns. I feel that you, as the business owner, should definitely own your domain name because then you have immediate access to it. If you do happen to move to another provider, your new provider then also has access to that domain. If there’s a bounty on that domain then nobody’s got access to it and you have to start the process all over again.

The key thing to remember about a domain name is that Google’s PageRank is based upon trust. So, the age of your domain has an impact on the trust level that Google applies to your website. Imagine if you had a website for ten years and all of a sudden your domain lapses and you lose it, and you have to start again, you’ve lost 10 years of trust with Google. That’s a lot of trust that you’ve got to build back up with all of the various search engines.

Tip #4 – Check Who Owns The Intellectual Property Of All Your Website Assets

I would check who owns the intellectual property of your websites. If an agency’s built an application for you, they might charge a bounty to release that CMS or the application to another provider. That tends to come as a bit of a shock to most business owners but it is common practice. You may feel that you own the IP. My best piece of advice is to check this out before a developer builds anything for you. Who owns the IP and the copyright behind that application that you’ve asked them to build? A lot of business owners expect that they own it because they bought it, and that’s not always the case. Sometimes the design agency will license it out to you instead but it’s not always clear.

Tip #5 – You Shouldn’t Be Charged For Changing Providers

Finally, if you do choose to move providers, from our experience, customers typically have very genuine reasons why they want to change. It might be simple as the client moved location and they want to work with a provider who lives nearby. That’s a genuine reason for changing. In fact it’s something which I would encourage, because the customer then gets the best for their own business.

I don’t feel that it’s ethical for a development agency to charge for a client to move their website to another provider. Really, they should do it free of charge, and gracefully, as a thank you for having the customer for however long that client was with them. If you’re going to move, don’t worry about it, move, but don’t expect to pay for it. Have that conversation and ask the question of your web developer if they’re trying to make you pay for the privilege of moving to another provider.

In Summary:

1. Make sure that you find an established agency or freelancer, to mitigate, if they get hit by a bus or you feel they might go out business – do your due diligence.

2. Find a reputable hosting provider if you’re going to register the domain name yourself.

3. If the agency registers the domain name for you, make sure that it’s registered in your name, so that if anything does go wrong with them, you can go through a Nominet or ICANN or one of the domain name registrants to retrieve that domain name.

4. Check who owns the intellectual property for all of your website assets. So whether that’s a CMS platform or the application that your designer’s build for you.

5. Finally, question whether additional charges, such as fees for changing providers.