What comes to mind when you think of a web designer?
A twenty-something kid who's been wearing the same clothes for a week sitting in front of a computer sucking down Peet's coffee by the gallon with a pile of candy wrappers on the floor comes to mind for me.
Web designers are notoriously flakey and often disappear from the face of the earth without saying “Good Bye”.
Most web designers are very reliable but the small percentage of flakes have tarnished our reputation. I hear the horror stories about flakey web designers all the time. Some of the complaints include:
They never return my calls
They never return my emails
Their email address doesn't work anymore
Their phone number is disconnected
I've been waiting 6 months for my website
My website has disappeared
You get the idea.
The problem with many web designers is they do web design for fun or as a hobby. It's not their real business and they're just picking up some extra cash. Another big problem I see is businesses let they're 16 year old nephew set up their website because he needed to build a website for his HTML class.
My biggest pet peeve is when I see professional web design firms overcharge clients and then hold them hostage. I know many business owners that paid premium prices for their website AND pay a huge monthly fee to keep the site running. They can't move the site to another webhost because it's proprietary software that won't work anywhere else. One poor woman paid $20,000 for an ecommerce website and pays over $100 a month and she's stuck. If she terminates the contract, she loses everything.
No wonder we have bad reputations!
I'm from the old school of business (remember honesty and integrity?) and I'm tired of seeing small business owners being held hostage. Here are 5 things you absolutely need from your web designer so you aren't held hostage.
1. Your website should be built using open source software – never, ever let them talk you into their “proprietary” software
2. Make sure your domain name is registered in your name not your web designer's name. You need to have complete control of your domain name.
3. Get all usernames and passwords for your webhosting account, your domain name registration account, your FTP account and your shopping cart account.
4. Make sure you get all of the original images created by your graphic designer, This includes Photoshop and/or Illustrator, jpgs, gifs and any other images they created for you.
5. Make sure you get a copy of all website coding. They should provide you a CD with every file they created for you.
You paid for the design and development of your graphics and website so you are entitled to a copy of everything. Make sure it is on the contract you sign with your designer before you begin the project. If they are unwilling to give you all of the original files then run and find another designer that will give you everything.
This way if your web designer doesn't answer his phone, moves out of the country or his favorite webhost goes out of business with the only copy of your website files on their repossessed server, your website won't disappear forever.