What Every Business Should Watch for Before Getting Online

A few years back I wrote a post about a friend who was totally duped by their web designer. I’ve always been a big believer in having control of your online business and practice it religiously with my own clients, but many business that are new to the online world tend to put all of their trust in their designer because they don’t understand the process, maybe feel they don’t have time to learn it or better yet, don’t care to know the details.

That is a HUGE mistake! Just like every other part of your business from inventory to finances, your online business should be something you watch and have complete control over.

As I was writing my new series, “10 Steps to Getting Your Business Online”, it hit me that I need to re-post this article on my new site so hopefully anyone looking to get online will “beware” prior to actually taking action.

Betrayed By a Web Designer!

Just recently a very interesting thing happen to a friend of mine. I’m not going to mention any names but the story is one that everyone and anyone looking to get their business, hobby or group site online should hear.

Most people will depend on their web designers to tell them what they need and will trust them when they suggest what is needed and to provide the best possible price. So if a designer says you need this, this and this to get your site up and running, you believe them. You don’t know any different.

In this case, the designer took advantage of this lack of knowledge to make more money.

To start this off, let’s say we are talking about a community of friends who use a specific application to get together and hang out. This “application” is one they pay for every month.

Now, when they started they hired a web designer to help them put the whole site together. They were told they would need to pay $30 each month for hosting on top of their monthly “application” charge as well as a certain amount for any updates they wanted made to their site. But first, of course, they had to pay to have the site developed.

Fine, they agreed and had their site created using a content management system with the application data built into the site. All they had to do was log in as members to use the site with their friends. Any updates or maintenance were taken care of by their designer.

In essence they were held captive. They had absolutely no control over the their own site. They didn’t know anything about their own ability to update and maintain their site using the cms administration panel and they had no idea where or how to access their site files. For a long while, they were ok with that because they trusted their designer and well, they didn’t know any better.

Anyway, my friend came to me a few months back and asked me what they should do. They needed the site updated and couldn’t get their designer to do it. In a sense they were lost because they didn’t know anything about their own site other than how to access it as regular members. So, I told them to ask for the proper access to both the administrative side of the CMS and the control panel where their files were. After some time they were given access to the CMS admin with only limited abilities. Their designer would not give them any further control. It was like pulling teeth to gain control of their own site!

Then, just recently he came to me again and said, they didn’t know what to do. They still couldn’t get the guy to update the site, they didn’t know how themselves even with the access and they wanted him out.

So I stepped in. Now you have to understand that I was going by the information my friend gave me and he did not understand the concept of hosting vs the CMS admin, nor about the site files vs the application they were using. I was walking in blind. Initially I told him he would have to change the hosting and re-create the site because we didn’t have any access to the original files. From what he was saying, I thought their hosting was on a completely different server with the application files being embedded into their existing pages.

Based on the information provided, I began the process of examining the set up of their site so I could re-create it on my own servers for them. Then it hit me! I immediately contacted the host of the application they were using to ask if they also provided regular hosting. The reply, yes and it was included in the monthly application cost! Hmmm, so what was the $30 hosting charge for?

Anyway, I figured this was great news. This would save them the monthly hosting fee they were paying their designer! I would simply set up their site using the hosting they were already paying for each month. Great news, right?

Wrong, because after gaining access to the control panel I realized that all of their site files were already there. It turns out, they were paying for the application each month PLUS an additional hosting charge to their designer to host their site files! I was outraged, what a scam.

So I talked to my friend and explained what was happening, needless to say he was angry. They had been severely taken advantage of without knowing it. He gave me the go ahead to re-gain control and lock their designer out. As for the CMS admin, we still didn’t have top control and the guy was not going to give us the passwords. So, with access to the database, I managed to change things around, lock the guy out and grant top administration access to my friend and his partner.

Now, I need to spend a little time showing them how to actually use and update the site. Being a content management system, it will be easy for them once they understand. They are now saving $30 each month from hosting and any addition charges for updates and maintenance.

The moral of this story…beware! Your designer should be willing to give you complete access to your entire site. Do some investigative work to make sure you understand the entire process from getting the domain name to hosting to the platform your site is designed in. Even if you would prefer to pay someone to maintain your site, you should always be the one in charge of every bit of that site.

If there is any part of the process you don’t understand, you designer should be more than willing to explain it all in detail. You could also confirm what you are being told by either searching online or asking other professionals in one of the millions of web design forums online.

Bottom line, don’t go into your project blind. A little research now could save you tons of money.

Have you or someone you know had a similar experience? Share it with us by leaving a comment to help others avoid similar scams.

Wow, after reading that article again I still can’t believe there’s people out there doing this stuff but, not long after I wrote that I found out about another small business owner who lost everything when her designer left and closed everything down.  He was no where to be found.  Sad eh?

Here’s a few things you need to make sure you have if using a designer:

Complete access that includes links, usernames and passwords to:

  • Your hosting Cpanel and host themselves if applicable
  • Any and all database information
  • Website administration
  • Domain registrar
  • Any programs such as gaming applications, newsletter/autoresponder accounts, marketing software or sites they may have set up.

I think this covers the majority and should give you a good idea of what to watch out for and what to ask for from your designer.  In fact, if you still can, ask your designer up-front what his/her policy is and if at anytime you feel like they are leaving something out or even  a little hesitant about what their policy is….walk…no RUN!

There are great designers out there whom you can trust and will answer everyone of your questions before you start and during the process.

Hope this helps…


Image by: Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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