Okay, that title might be a little misleading. We see a lot of hype from web design companies and digital marketing agencies about the importance of owning your own website. It’s usually part of a discussion around why you should choose their services over building a site on Wix or whatever. If you’re here, you’re probably evaluating your options. So how important is it really to own your website?
The thing is, whether you use a website builder to create something on your own or hire someone for custom web design, there are a lot of pieces involved. Anyone who claims they can give you absolute ownership over all of it is misleading you. Let’s look at what you can actually own and what you can’t.
You Can’t Own These Parts of Your Website
You can set up a site with your information for something like yourbusinessname.com. Unless you’re using a “free” website builder, you’ll pay some amount of money for it. However, there are some things you don’t actually own. Ownership implies it’s yours forever, but that isn’t the case with the following:
Your Domain Name Is Yours For a Time
When you set up your website, you choose a unique domain name that acts as your website’s online address. It’s like your phone number – when you first establish phone service, your service provider gives you a number. It’s how people contact you for as long as you maintain service.
You might have that phone number for the rest of your life. As long as you have it, no one else can use it. However, if you don’t pay your bill or you decide to switch to another number, the provider can reassign your number to someone else. You never owned it in the first place. A domain name is similar. It’s only yours as long as you pay for it. You can’t buy it outright.
Sometimes domain registration fees are included in the web design package you buy. If you have a free site, your domain will probably be an assigned URL, which isn’t great for business. You’ll have to pay every time your registration is about to run out to keep your domain name. If you don’t someone else can use it.
You Lease Space on a Hosting Server
In order for your website to be connected to the Internet, you need web hosting. It’s a little like paying Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile for cell service. You can have a drawer full of cell phones, but unless you pay your bill they won’t do you much good. With web hosting, you rent space for your website on a hosting server.
Your Content Management System Isn’t Yours
A Content Management System (CMS) is the platform that allows you or your developer to actually create your website. Some of them are extremely complex, enabling you to create pretty much anything you can imagine. Because there are so many options, those also tend to require more technical expertise and background knowledge to use.
Drupal and WordPress are examples of popular content management systems for businesses of all sizes. They’re both free, open-source platforms, so anyone can use them. You don’t have to be a developer to do so. If a developer uses one of these to build your site, you don’t own your CMS.
Other platforms like Wix, Squarespace or Shopify are drag-and-drop. Basically, they give you a set of options and you move things around until you have the look and features you like. It’s accessible for people without design or programming experience, but it can be frustrating because they offer little in terms of customization. You don’t own your content management system with these options either.
It’s possible to hire someone to create a content management system just for your website, but to do so would be extremely expensive. Even enterprise level businesses tend to rely on a CMS like WordPress because it’s more cost effective and it offers everything they need.
Website Components You Can Own
Whether you hire someone to build your site or do it yourself, find out who gets the following:
- Images and text – They should be original and unique. If you take the time to create them, they should belong to you. If the company you hire creates them, you may not retain rights to them if you decide to make a change. If you use a website builder’s images, you might not get to use them any more if you choose another platform.
- Design and layouts – Find out if you own the visual elements that make up your site once you pay for them.
Before you enter an agreement, find out about control. You can’t own all the pieces, but you might want to make changes to some of them. Ask yourself what level of control and involvement you’re looking for. Do you want to update content yourself, create blog posts or add to an image gallery? That’s something to discuss at the beginning.
The Real Question – Data Portability
Here’s why people worry about ownership – because they want to keep what they pay for! The real question is what will happen if they decide they’re not happy with their current situation. Will they be able to transfer their website and its contents somewhere else, or will they have to completely start over?
If you use something like Wix or Squarespace, you can’t switch without having to re-do a lot of what you’ve already done. If your business grows and you need to tailor your website or add functions your CMS doesn’t offer, you’ll probably decide to switch to something that does. The unpleasant surprise comes when you find you can’t take your design with you.
With some CMS platforms, you can export website data and plugins. If you want to make a change, you could allow another web design company or digital marketing agency to work on your existing website if your current one allows and provides access. If you’re about to enter a website agreement or website contract, read the fine print first.
What You Get From Designers Who Claim You “Own” Your Site
Some web design companies say sure, their up-front fee is hefty, but after you pay you own your website. They say that makes them a better choice than inexpensive website builders that charge a monthly fee or web designers that require a contract. What they’re saying is they’ll give you ownership rights to your code, design and layouts.
That’s great, but they’re misrepresenting what they can actually give you. A website isn’t a thing you can put in a box, take home and expect it to thrive on its own.
Some of the biggest frustration we hear comes from business owners who paid for web design, then their web design company disappeared. They need updates or their website has a problem and they don’t know where to turn. The company that seemed so motivated when there was a big payout involved goes dark when they need small fixes. If there’s no plan for maintenance or growth, you own something that will decline in value.
More Important Than Ownership
Since you can only own parts of your website, no web design company can give you complete ownership. What’s way more important is working with experts who can give you results.
Your website is the digital face of your business. It can draw traffic, create connections and supercharge growth. It reaches across boundaries into peoples workplaces, homes, vehicles and anywhere else they search for your goods and services.
To do that, you don’t need a website you can put in a box. Traditional web design is dead. Instead, you need one that’s constantly growing, improving and expanding.
Reputable digital marketing agencies understand you can’t just design a website, hand over the login information and walk away. Web design costs too much for that.
We talked more about what to look for in 16 Tips for Choosing a Web Design Company. Keep in mind that search engine algorithms update all the time. Websites require maintenance or they become vulnerable and lose functionality. The online world changes at lightning speed, and those who don’t work to stay ahead of the curve get buried.
Spade Design doesn’t build websites that fit in a box. We start with a strategy that assumes growth because for us that’s the norm. We include plans for maintenance and updates because that’s what a robust, revenue-driving website requires, not because we want to lock clients into a situation.
Own Your Success in Spades
When what you want is a website that perfectly reflects your brand, functions exactly how you want and helps people find you around the clock, we can help. We’ll sit down and answer all your questions about web design that creates growth and help you design a strategy that’s unbeatable. Experience success in Spades when you get in touch today.