The Code Problem
Let’s start off with a very important control issue that is probably one of the most frustrating day-to-day handicaps for so many of my clients. I am talking about who owns the actual code.
This is so very important because websites are meant to be living, growing and adapting all the time.
However, as strange as it sounds, when we make even the most basic suggestions for improving the site, many of our clients discover that they have far less ability to edit and adapt their sites than they imagined and that they have no access to or ownership of the code to carry out these crucial changes and find themselves totally dependent on their current developers.
Or, another common scenario that clients encounter is that they discover that their website was built on a platform that is common for many clients. The problem with this is that changes can only be made if the developer decides that this will suit everyone. And in many cases, the answer is in the direction of “No we can’t do this because…..”
Either way, this can be the death of any successful online marketing campaign – a very dangerous situation to be in.
The Solution to the Code Problem:
As part of helping my clients gain control of their websites, I am encouraging them to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
The reason for this is really simple. The more complex and “bespoke” the code, and the more “expert” the development platform, the more difficult (and expensive) it is to get another developer to take it over if you wish. And if you do not have alternatives to your developer, then he or she controls you and your site exclusively. And still today I am seeing how dangerous and limiting this is for so many of my clients.
Go for really simple website structures such as WordPress. They are simple and super powerful and super flexible and help you stay in control so much easier. See my article 7 Reasons to Use WordPress.
To understand why this is so, let’s take an example of a site built in Joomla, Drupal or Magenta. For these platforms, there are far fewer developers who are expert – and, as a result, they are quite expensive. However, if you build your site in something very popular such as WordPress, there are literally tens of thousands of excellent WordPress developers who are super keen and willing. And as there as so many, they tend to be quite competitive when it comes to price. And when you have a lot of good and low-cost options, you control everything.
I keep hearing things such as: “My site is so complex that it needs really complex development structures”. Well, having designed and developed some huge corporate websites over the past 10 years, I can tell you that one of the most important lessons I learned when it came to identifying and working with complexity is that what is considered very complex for a human is very simple for a computer database. And with a decent and simple database, you can not only effectively manage a government – you can still navigate accurately to the moon and back in your spare time.
So my advice to help you keep control of your site is to get as much built-in WordPress as possible.
It is far more robust and flexible and you can build amazing websites in less time and with less budget. And, most importantly, you own and control it 100%.
The Hosting Problem
However, even once you have gained control of your code, there is yet one more major hurdle to cross: who owns the server account where your website is hosted?
If you remember in Part 1 of this article I spoke of how developers often have reseller accounts with various providers? Well, the same is true when it comes to hosting. As most developers already have a group hosting account with one of the server companies, they often just add you to theirs.
The problem with that is that the account is in their name. And so, if there is a problem with the server in the middle of the night and your developer does not pick up the phone, you have no direct access to the server engineers (most of the better server companies today have 24/7 engineer support) who can fix it for you. So, once again, you are dependent on your developer.
For this reason, I try to suggest to my clients to have the server account set up in their name and then give access to the developer.
Need Help Getting Control of your Website?
The secret of getting control is to take all the necessary steps as soon as possible, preferably while you and your developer are still working amicably together. And the first step is to commission a full Ownership Audit of your online properties to see what you actually own and control – and to see who owns those parts that you don’t own.
I have helped a number of clients get a full understanding of the ownership issues and to take their websites back, so give me a call if you would like help in making such an assessment and getting full control over your site.