When engaging a web developer it’s important not to fall into a common trap – having someone else control your business.
You wouldn’t let your accountant hold your information without having a copy so why would you let your web developer control parts of your website without having access?
This is an issue that has happened so often that I thought I’d write out a blog post that would be relevant to everyone that currently owns a business that has a web presence (which is pretty much everyone).
While you may get along with your web developer now – how do you know that 3 months down the track you guys may have a disagreement, or he may disapear on holidays without informing you – what if he just disappears (rare but it can happen).
What happens then?
What would happen if your web developer disapeared right now – how quickly could you put another developer in charge of looking after your website?
Below are 5 important pieces of information you need right now to ensure that you have CONTROL over your business website (and your business):
Your cPanel password will allow you to have access to your website database. This database will hold the content of your website (if your website is run by a database, which most websites are these days). The cPanel will also allow you to do cool things like setup new email addresses for staff, or shut off email addresses for staff that have left.
This one is a bit less important, since you change this password in the cPanel – however the FTP (file transfer protocol) – will allow you to change files on your website. A lot of times you will not have to bother with this – but sometimes you may need to modify a file directly – having the FTP password will help you. In most cases, if you have the cPanel and the FTP password – should your developer suddenly become unavailable – you’ll be able to switch over the website resposbilities to another developer without too much issue.
The CMS (Content Management System) is the front end administration interface that will allow you to easily make changes to your website without too much technical know how. If you’ve ever seen a screen like this:
You’ll know what a CMS system looks like. WordPress is the most popular CMS but no matter what CMS you use – you’ll need to have a copy of the login credentials. By the way ensure you have the superadmin (top level) login details, not just the ‘editor’ login details.
Sometimes your developer may give you the login details for a CMS which will only allow you to edit pages for example, however will not give you the ability to change top level menus or install extensions to your website. Should the developer dissapear and you don’t have the top level CMS access – it could become a slight headache.
Google Analytics will allow you to see how many visitors come to your website. Most web developers will be able to easily install Google Analytics tracking on your website. However in many cases you may not all ready have a Google account so the developer will setup an Analytics account under his name to track your visitors.
This is not a big deal per se – but you must ask him to grant your email permission to view your Analytics reports. Basically should the developer disapear and you need a special report for your visitor tracking (for example, how many visitors come from a particular advertiser) – you will be hard pressed to get this information unless you setup a new Analytics account (and this means your old data will be lost).
Oh, and if you don’t have Analytics installed on your website yet, do it now! How can you improve if you don’t know where you currently stand?
Hopefully that gave you some clarity about exactly what ‘keys’ you need to have a copy of, just like running a warehouse, you wouldn’t let your employees have access to any areas you don’t, right? So why should it be any different for web development?
As a client you have a right to request and receive this information. Should the web developer present excuses for why he can’t give these to you then there’s a high chance that you’ll have a hard time getting this information if eventually you decide to switch web developers.
Oh, and backup regularly!