How To Avoid Being Scammed By Your Web Design Company?

Real World Rants

Recently we have seen a growing number of clients being held 'hostage' by their existing web design company, and we are concerned by what appears to be a growing trend. A few years ago - when everyone was caught up in the rush to create an online presence - there was a tendency to turn to the web designer and ask him to 'do everything', or 'do what you need to, just get us online'.

Many small businesses allowed their web designer to arrange hosting for their web site and also to register the domain name for the company. Their is nothing inherently wrong with that - but if the client is naive or the web developer didn't follow good practise the client company can find that the web developer is the 'owner' or 'registrant' of the domain name.


Web design companies have a lot of control over their clients, especially where the client is relying on the designer for his expertise in what is often seen as a very complex area. The reality is that many web site owners do not know that they are stuck in this potentially painful predicament. This power is usually exercised when a client of a web design company finds a better deal on hosting for their web site and they simply want to switch their hosting provider, or when the "client" wants to upgrade their web site for a better rate than their current web development provider is offering.

Here's what usually happens to so called "traitor clients":

  • Current web design company sends their client a hefty bill for switching
  • The web design company cancels their client’s account
  • They may point the domain name to another place
  • They sometimes take down the entire website until further notice

You get the point! Too much power is given to the web design company. We truly believe that it is your right to shop for better prices and it is your right to own your domain name even if you didn't have a hand in registering your domain name.

As the owner of the website, you put your trust into your web design company to represent your business appropriately and honestly, only to find out down the road that honesty isn't in their vocabulary.

I truly believe there should be a law against web design companies that can be summarized as such: For any domain name registered by the web design company on behalf of their client, the domain name may not be disputed or need to be disputed, the domain name is automatically owned by the client and is automatically bound by their web development contract.

With every new venture, there is always going to be loopholes. From the aforementioned example, what if there is no contract? If you are reading this and are in the process of searching for a web design company, please ENSURE that you have a contract drafted, outlining everything you are entitled to and that you have sole rights to your domain name.

See what most business owners fail to realize is that their domain name is as important as registering their business name itself. I will repeat that... Your domain name is "hot real estate", would you want someone else owning your property?

The same applies for your domain name. Don't get caught with your pants down while asking, why don't I own my domain name. It is as important as owning your own company name. There are people out there searching for suckers to take their domain name - don't be the one who gets caught!

How to avoid this "Power Stricken" disaster: The best solution is to go out and register your domain name BEFORE you hire a web design company. This ultimately gives you the power over your domain name. At any given time, you can go back and log into your "domain name registrant" in order to switch your web site to any hosting company you choose.

When searching for an "all around" package for your web design project, make sure that your hosting is suitable for your needs. 95% of all web design projects don't need a large hosting package that costs between £500-£1,500 a year. The most you should pay for your hosting in this case is around £100.00 a year, no more.

You only need a large hosting package if:

  • Your web site is 1000+ pages in size
  • You're going to buy traffic in the 1000's every month
  • You need over 25 email accounts setup
  • Uptime and reliability is a must

Ask questions when shopping for a web design company!

Here are a few questions you should be asking right away before you sign any contract...

  • Do you provide a contract for all your projects?
  • If you register my domain name, will it state in my contract that I own the domain name under all circumstances?
  • If I am late making payments, is it your company policy to cancel the account?
  • Why are your hosting services so high in price? Why wouldn't I go somewhere else for $100 a year?
  • Does it state within your contract that I cannot switch to a different hosting company later on?
  • Going forward, am I going to be able to hire any web developer for my website updates, if I am able to negotiate better prices?

This is another important note:

Make sure your web design company gives you the "FTP (File Transfer Protocol)" access to your website. The FTP allows you to hire another web design company to go in and update your website at any time. Without the FTP information, no one can update your website besides the original web development company or hosting company that you hired.
In Conclusion:

Be weary of web design companies that don't provide contracts for all of their projects. Be careful with your domain name; make sure that in the end, you own all rights to your domain name, not someone else.

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