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Designers, Websites, and You

If you aren't some kind of techno-whiz yourself, opting to have a professional designer build your website's a great idea. Not only do you get a fantastic, functional Website at the end of the process, you also spare yourself the tedium of trying to do something incredibly complicated yourself.

Before you involve someone this closely with your business, though, it's a good idea to understand how the relationship typically works.

Contract Work

Most small-to-medium-sized businesses can't afford to keep a designer on staff, so they hire one. You should look at this like any other kind of contract work. The contractee does the work you need, and you pay for their services. Pretty simple.

However, make sure you understand what your designer's services entail — just like you would a mechanic or A/C tech. By asking the right questions up front, you can avoid unpleasant surprises (like additional costs) later on. Here are some basics:

  • Do you bill per hour or by flat-rate?
    • If it's per-hour, what's an estimate for the cost?
    • If it's flat-rate, how many revisions on your original design do you offer?
  • Do you offer copy writing?
  • How do we need to get images for the website?
  • How much do you charge for updates?
  • Will you maintain my website (e.g. patches)?
  • Who do I contact for technical issues?
  • Do you include any search engine optimization? (More info available here.)

Ownership

Because there's no tangible product at the end of your website's creation, who owns what piece of your website can be convoluted. Clarifying ownership of your website's original content, domain names, and hosting account up front helps avoid any disputes down the digital road.

Domain Names: The owner of a domain name is known as its "registrant." This is the person who or entity that has the legal rights to the domain name. We always recommend that the person who owns the company the website represents be listed as the domain's registrant. This way, if you decide to use a different Web designer in the future, you don't have to worry about your former designer having total control over your domain name.

We also suggest that you keep the domain name in an account you have access to. If the designer needs to access it, you can assign them as a Domain Name Account Administrator. For more information, see Becoming a Domain Name Account Administrator.

Web Hosting: Web hosting (or just "hosting") is where your website's files "live" so they're visible on the Internet. Often times, designers just include hosting and factor that cost into your bill. Others want you to purchase hosting yourself and just give them access to it.

Who controls the hosting matters less than who owns the domain name, but it's a good idea to know in advance how your arrangement with the designer will operate.

Website: Unlike either your domain name or web hosting, ownership of the files that comprise your website can be murky territory. It's possible that the designer can give you a copy of your website's files and you're free to do with them whatever you wish — including having another designer work on them at a later date. It's also possible that the designer literally has no access to the files and they're not portable to you, another designer, or another host. It's important to establish an agreement about the ownership of your website's files before you agree to anything.

You should understand the intricacies of working with a professional website designer before making a decision. That way, you're more likely to build a successful relationship with your designer — and establish an amazing digital presence.

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