The Role of Your Website Design Firm
Who did you hire? Did you hire a website designer or an online marketing firm? You may not know the difference, but it's important to know so you can better assess what their responsibilities are for your project and/or ongoing support.
Even if the goal is just to get a new website designed, do you want this firm to also manage your domain name registration, your website hosting, your email hosting, as well as the ongoing maintenance and support of your website?
I would argue that the business owner should own and control a few of these items. It will depend on your relationship with the website designer/builder though for the rest.
Consider this. Whoever manages your domain name registration needs to be someone you will have a long-term relationship with. If it's not you, the business owner, then at least make sure it's not an IT person or a small web design firm that is only working on one project for you. I'm shocked at how many business owners I run into monthly who have no idea who controls their domain name registration...and that's scary.
IT people fix computers (for the most part) as well as connect your various devices, all your technology, to each other, to your network, etc... They are usually technology problem-solvers, but they are not marketers. So IT people can help with the technical side of your website, but they should not be responsible for the actual design and/or build-out of it.
That's the same way to think about website designers versus online marketing professionals. Website designers are mostly there to simply create a website to your liking. Of course there's some strategy involved. I'm not saying that website designers are mindless drones who just put design elements and copy in whatever arrangement you request. We are website designers too. But independent website designers are not necessarily the best caretakers of all your online access points.
Business owners need to understand the differences between their providers and understand who should own and control what when it comes to their website.
If you are working with an established online marketing firm, they may cross over all aspects of your website and technical needs.
Let's break it down this way. Here are the primary components of a business website:
- Domain Name - this is your url (www.yoururl.com). Don't let your website designer control this. Make sure you, the business owner, own this domain and have control of it (login access to it). It's perfectly fine to share this access with reputable vendors you work with. But it's essential that you own it. PLEASE NOTE: by controlling your domain name, you control where it is pointed. You point your A records to the server where your website files reside and you point your MX records to the server where your email resides.
- Website Hosting - this can managed and controlled by your IT or online marketing vendor, but most likely NOT by a website designer. You need to understand what this is, how much and how often you pay for it and how to access it. However, you don't really need need to be able to access it, just know that you can.
- Website Content (images and copy) - ultimately, if you pay for this to be created, then you should own it. This is important to understand. Do you own the content once it's created and paid for? Ask this question before you get started with whoever is building your site. Owning this does not necessary mean you can move it or change it without professional help. But if you own it, then you can save time and money if you do change providers in the future.
Finally, you need to understand who is responsible for updating your website when you need changes. Did you ask your website designer if they would remain available to you after your site launch? Do you have an online marketing company that works with you ongoing and can help with all aspects of your online presence?
A website designer or website design firm is just that...someone that designs (and builds) your website. Unless you work with a company that provides more than just website design, then you need to define who handles the technical side of your site and who is there to help you ongoing.
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