Don’t Let Your Web Designer Own Your Domain and Accounts

We're currently working with two businesses who are suffering because they don't own their domains; their web designers do. Both are trying to move their websites, but they've hit a roadblock because they don't own their domains. We've worked with companies in similar situations many times over the years, and I get angry each time. This problem would be easily avoided if companies registered their own domains, rather than letting their web designers (or other professionals) do it for them.

There are many other accounts that businesses should have access to, but too often don't. They let web professionals maintain control, assuming that their relationship will always be healthy. These include accounts for hosting, WordPress, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console. Let's look at the right way to handle these.

Note: In this post I'm going to use "web designer" to refer to any person or company outside your business who's managing your accounts. That might be an agency, a freelancer, or your niece who's helping you.

Note: This page contains affiliate links. Please see Affiliate Disclosure.

Why You Must Own Your Accounts

If you let your web designer own your accounts, you're at their mercy. They can charge exorbitant fees to make simple changes. Or your business relationship may end for any number of reasons, many of which are out of your control. The relationship could go sour, they could quit, they could die, etc. When you need to make a change and need access, you'll be dependent on your web designer responding quickly and being willing to make the changes. You simply can't count on both of those at all times. When you own your accounts, you don't need to worry about those.

The best approach, and the one we advocate, is for you to open your own accounts in your business' name. Then, you can give the web designer access as necessary. If the relationship ends for any reason, you're free to find a new web designer and give them access.

Domain

You should register your own domain, in your business' name. You should own the account and have access to the domain registrar's control panel. Our favorite domain registrar is Hover, because they have a simple, uncluttered interface, and WHOIS privacy is included.

This is the most critical piece. Even if you lose control of your WordPress site and hosting, as long as you have the domain, you can point it elsewhere and be back online.

Hosting

You should open your own account, in your business' name. Be very careful about buying hosting from your web designer, as that ties you to them. If you go that route, ask for as much access as you can have (to the control panel, SFTP, database, etc.), in case you need to this access for yourself or another professional in the future.

If you're shopping for hosting, we recommend SiteGround for most small businesses, and Flywheel or WP Engine for sites with higher security and traffic requirements.

WordPress

You should have your own account. In fact, each person in your business who needs access should have their own account. Sharing accounts makes it harder to tell who did what, and to restrict access. It's OK if your web designer doesn't give you an Administrator account (especially if you don't need it), but they should give you an account with an appropriate level of access (such as Editor, or a custom role).

Premium WordPress Plugins and Themes

Premium plugins and themes are those that you buy, and have a license for their use. In general, it's best that you buy them and have the license in your name, so that you can re-download and contact support directly if necessary. Give your license key (or account credentials) to your web designer as needed.

However, there are some plugins and themes (such as StudioPress' themes) that have developer licenses, making it less expensive (or free) if your web designer buys for you. If you go this route, be aware that if you end your relationship with your web designer, you may need to purchase your own license at renewal time. If that happens, you can usually keep the plugin or theme in place, and just update the license key, which is fairly painless.

To hear both sides on this topic, see Should Client or Builder Buy Themes and Plugins?

Google Analytics

It's fine if your web designer sets this up, as long as they set up a separate account for your business. Note that this is a separate account within Google Analytics, not necessarily a separate Google account. That keeps your data separate from the data of other sites. They should also give you Manage Users and Edit permissions at the Account level. That way, you have control over the account, and can add and remove users.

Google Search Console

It's fine if your web designer sets this up, as long as they add you as an owner. That way, you have control over the account, and can add and remove users. Note: Google Search Console was formerly named Google Webmaster Tools.

Other Accounts

You see the pattern by now. Apply the same rules to other accounts, such as email marketing and social media accounts.

Are You in Control?

Do an inventory of your accounts. Do you have all the access you should? If not, sort it out with your web professional while there's still time.


Does Your WordPress Site Need Maintenance?

It’s important that you control the accounts related to your website. But are you staying on top of WordPress updates, backups, and security? We can help your website run smoothly—and safely. Sign up for your WordPress Maintenance Plan today.

Featured image by Yuri Samoilov

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11 comments on “Don’t Let Your Web Designer Own Your Domain and Accounts”

    1. Yes, ideally. The problem is, businesses can't easily judge a web pro's dependability when they first hire them. They may trust the web pro to open their accounts, and not realize until months or years later that the web pro isn't dependable. By then it may be too late, and they may have to go to great lengths to gain access to their accounts. I've seen it too many times.

      Also, even assuming the web pro is trustworthy and dependable, they may become unavailable despite their previous intentions. Web pros can change jobs, go out of business, or die, all despite having the best of intentions of staying available to their former clients.

      In a perfect world, every business could trust every web pro to own their accounts, but since our world isn't perfect, I believe it's generally best for the business to own its own accounts.

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