In the latest issue of SmallBiz magazine, there is an article about a website design project that turned into a nightmare. Since we only want happy clients, we had to give it a read. In it, there’s a list of six tips to “make sure you get what you expect from your web developer.” Here is a summary of those points:

  1. Register the domain name yourself, in your name or that of your company.
  2. Stay local.
  3. Check references.
  4. Get a clause in your contract … stating that you have the right to use the material on the website.
  5. Be as clear as you can about what you expect.
  6. Ask the developer to produce a “shadow site” on his own server that you will approve before the site goes live.

These are pretty good suggestions, and for the most part we would encourage our clients to follow them as well. The most important one, however, is the first. We always want our clients to own the domain name of their website, because we believe it’s what’s best for them.

What can happen is that an under-principled web designer will decide that they want more money, or just want to be a jerk, so they’ll refuse to turn over the domain name to you. This can pretty much prevent you from even having another developer work on your site, which is about as worst-case as it gets! It can be very hard to get it back, as it might involve taking them to court.

This just gives good web designers a bad name. So be sure to own your domain name!